Last updated 5 September 2016

Some social security payments are activity tested to ensure that the people in receipt of payments are actively looking for employment and are doing everything they can to be ready for work. The following payments are activity tested:

  • Newstart Allowance
  • Youth Allowance (unemployed)
  • Special Benefit (nominated visa holder)
  • Parenting Payment.


Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance and Special Benefit (nominated visa holder)

A person will satisfy an activity test if they are ‘actively seeking work’ and are willing to undertake suitable paid work (ss 541(1)(b)601(1) Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) (Social Security Act)).

‘Actively seeking’ work means a person needs to engage with an employment service provider on a regular basis, apply for jobs, attend job interviews and training courses that will improve their job prospects, and accept suitable job offers. Work usually means full-time paid work, however, a job seeker should be willing to take part-time and casual work.

Some job seekers may not be able to work full time or may only have a limited range of allowable duties they can perform due to incapacity. The level of capacity will be determined by an Employment Services Assessment or Job Capacity Assessment.

Once a person has been assessed, they are expected to look for work within their assessed capacity (e.g. 15 to 22 hours per week; it will satisfy the activity test if they work for at least 30 hours a fortnight (ss 541(1B)(b), 603AB Social Security Act). This assessment may only be temporary (ss 542A , 603F Social Security Act).

Parenting Payment

A person receiving Parenting Payment must sign an Employment Pathway Plan or a Job Plan and meet participation requirements when their youngest child turns six years of age.


According to the Social Security Act, exemptions from the activity test may be granted on a number of grounds including if a person:

  • is the principal carer of a child and there are special family circumstances (e.g. the person was subject to domestic violence) (ss 542F, 602B)
  • lives in certain remote areas (ss 542E, 603)
  • is in receipt of Special Benefit (nominated visa holder)
  • can show special circumstances (e.g. medical grounds or temporary incapacity). In most cases special circumstances exemptions are applied for in 13-week periods and must be reapplied for regularly
  • is over 55 and engaged in approved voluntary work for an approved organisation for at least 30 hours in the period(s 603AA).

Employment Pathway Plan

All job seekers with activity requirements will need to have an Employment Pathway Plan (EPP) created when they are granted payment (ss 544, 605 Social Security Act).

An EPP is an individually tailored plan that identifies a job seeker’s employment and training goals, and records the activities the job seeker has agreed to undertake to reach the goals. The activities should be within their capacity and assist them in gaining sustainable employment (s 544B Social Security Act).

Each activity must be quantifiable and specific, stating what the job seeker must do and when, and it has to be measurable so it is clear when an activity has been completed. Some examples include completing a specified number of job searches in a week, participating in an education or development program, or performing volunteer work.

A person must be capable of complying with any term included in an EPP. If a person is not capable of undertaking an activity (or a combination of activities), the activity cannot be included in an EPP. Employment Pathway Plans can be amended at any time.