Program 1.1 Employment Services


2017–18 was the third year of jobactive, the Australian Government’s mainstream employment services system which was introduced on 1 July 2015.

jobactive has a strong performance track record in helping job seekers find and keep a job, move from welfare to work, and meet their mutual obligations. These objectives provide the framework for measuring and tracking jobactive’s success against Outcome 1.

Throughout 2017–18, jobactive providers gave job seekers flexible and practical support to secure and stay in work, taking into account their individual circumstances. As part of this, providers also supported job seekers in a range of work like activities that prepare them for employment and to meet their mutual obligation requirements.

jobactive providers also worked closely with industry and employers, not only to identify job opportunities for job seekers, but to understand recruitment needs and ensure employers are receiving candidates who meet their business requirements.

To promote better performance, the department reallocates business between providers to encourage the delivery of high-quality services for job seekers and employers. In Western Australia, business reallocations deferred from 2016–17 occurred on 26 March 2018 in five employment regions.

Seasonal Work Incentives trial

The Seasonal Work Incentives Trial was implemented on 1 July 2017 in response to concerns about the Australian horticulture industry’s ability to attract sufficient numbers of seasonal workers. The two-year trial is capped at 3,800 places a year over 2017–18 and 2018–19 (7,600 places in total). It offers incentives to help eligible job seekers from jobactive, Transition to Work, and Disability Employment Services take up short-term seasonal work in the horticultural industry. It complements Harvest Labour Services and the Seasonal Worker Programme.

Under the trial, employment services providers work closely with growers to identify their labour needs and place the right workers to meet them. Employment services providers also work with eligible job seekers to promote the trial and the benefits of taking up seasonal work.

There are two trial incentives managed by the department:

  • Seasonal Work Living Away and Travel Allowance – job seekers can earn up to $300 each year where the work is more than 120km from their home.
  • A Provider Seasonal Work Incentive Payment of $100 a week for up to six weeks.

A third trial incentive is managed by the Department of Social Services:

  • Seasonal Horticultural Work Income Exemption – eligible job seekers who receive Newstart and Youth Allowance (Other) can earn up to $5,000 each year from seasonal horticultural work without losing any of their income support payment.

At 30 June 2018, 260 jobactive, 13 Disability Employment Services and four Transition to Work job seekers had been placed into the trial, while 21 jobactive job seekers had been referred and were expected to start. There were also 45 jobactive, Transition to Work and Disability Employment Services job seekers who had reached the $5,000 income exemption.

Job seeker snapshot (Online JSCI)

The department is helping make public services simpler and easier to use as part of the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda. An example is moving the Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI) online. This enables job seekers to create and manage their JSCI as part of their online claim, and improves efficiency and overall outcomes.

The department tested JSCI questions with job seekers and conducted research to better understand job seeker motivations. User centred design methodology was also a key strategy in designing the new online platform named ‘Job Seeker Snapshot’ that will host the JSCI questions.

The department is using the Scaled Agile Framework (or SAFE) methodology to build the Job Seeker Snapshot. IT functionality has been built and tested over four incremental phases by a team of business analysts, developers and testers.

By developing the online platform in four iterations between November 2017 and March 2018, the department ensured a well-tested system before launching the trial on 1 July 2018.

Targeted Compliance Framework

From 1 July 2018, a new Targeted Compliance Framework was introduced as part of a range of measures to help job seekers meet their mutual obligation requirements.

The Targeted Compliance Framework was announced as part of the 2017–18 Budget and in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017. The Bill was passed by the Parliament on 27 March 2018 and received Royal Assent on 11 April 2018. Under the new framework, job seekers who fail to meet their mutual obligation requirements will initially have their payment delayed until they re-engage and will incur demerits for failures committed without a valid reason. Those who incur five demerits within six months may face escalating financial penalties for additional failures. As part of the Government’s negotiations to secure passage of the Bill, an extra demerit was added to the framework.

For job seekers who receive an income support payment and who are registered with a jobactive, Disability Employment Services or a ParentsNext provider, the Targeted Compliance Framework delivered a new and more streamlined approach. It ensures that those who are genuinely disadvantaged and vulnerable are identified and supported, and apply stronger penalties to job seekers who wilfully and persistently fail to meet their mutual obligation requirements. The Targeted Compliance Framework reflects the expectations of the wider Australian community, that is that people in receipt of income support should do everything they can to find work. This includes taking personal responsibility for looking for work or participating in activities intended to help them build skills or capacity.

Since the new compliance measures were announced in May 2017, the department has engaged with a range of internal and external stakeholders to develop the operational policy settings and IT systems which underpin the new arrangements. Given the scope of the changes, the department implemented a comprehensive and integrated co-design, change management, training, communication and transition strategy. This has ensured that employment services providers were consulted in the design of the framework and given the opportunity to provide feedback on key system design. Between September and October 2017, the department delivered information and IT system co-design sessions across the country with jobactive, ParentsNext and Disability Employment Services providers. The sessions enabled attendees to hear more about the framework and to provide insights on training needs and materials for providers. This supports the successful implementation of the changes and communicates these changes to job seekers.

Change management discussions were held with each jobactive provider from February through to the end of March. These sessions helped providers identify and consider how they could best prepare for, accommodate and transition to the new framework. Discussions also enabled consistent messaging to be delivered, awareness raised around the new framework, and any concerns to be addressed in the lead up to implementation.

As part of the change management strategy, face-to-face training was also delivered across Australia to frontline jobactive, ParentsNext and Disability Employment Services providers. This training was vital to ensure staff responsible for managing the new compliance arrangements were fully prepared and ready to implement the Targeted Compliance Framework from 1 July 2018. Employment services provider staff who participated were highly engaged and positive about the initiative. Between early May and mid-June 2018, the department had delivered 15 one-day intensive sessions and six immersive three-day train-the-trainer sessions, which were attended by more than 1,900 employment provider staff.

The final component of the change management initiative involved developing a broad strategy, informed by social research, that identified key terms, symbols and effective language for communicating the changes. As part of this, a suite of tailored communication products were developed, including an animated video, brochures, posters and web content. These were published on and between late May and 1 July 2018.

Work for the Dole

Work for the Dole is providing opportunities for participants to gain the skills, experience and confidence to help them move into work while making a positive contribution to the community. Activities are hosted by not-for-profit organisations and government agencies. The initiative provides a valuable opportunity for job seekers to demonstrate their capabilities and work behaviour while making a positive contribution to their local community.

Post-program monitoring data shows that many job seekers started work soon after leaving Work for the Dole: 25.4 per cent of job seekers surveyed between January 2017 and December 2017 were in employment three months later.

The department also surveys job seekers six weeks after they start a Work for the Dole activity.

A total of 6,600 job seekers who participated in Work for the Dole between February 2017 and January 2018, were surveyed about their experience with the program with a 40 per cent response rate. Reflecting that Work for the Dole is primarily an activation program, 74.9 per cent of survey participants reported an increase in their motivation to find a job. Respondents also reported a high level of satisfaction with their Work for the Dole activities:

  • 82.1 per cent were satisfied that they had a safe work environment
  • 79.7 per cent were satisfied with the level of supervision
  • 74.4 per cent were satisfied with the organisation of the activity
  • 74.5 per cent were satisfied with the quality of the activity, and
  • 81.4 per cent believed the activity helped the local community.

These findings have remained stable since the current program commenced on 1 July 2015.

The work health and safety framework for Work for the Dole involves jobactive providers, host organisations and job seekers. Each has a role in meeting their obligations under the relevant work health and safety legislation. For example, providers are responsible for conducting a risk assessment on the work health and safety of each Work for the Dole activity before it can commence. In addition, providers are responsible for conducting a risk assessment for each job seeker placed in an activity, and for ongoing monitoring of activities to ensure that any issues are addressed.

The department purchases personal accident insurance for job seekers participating in activities, as well as combined public and product liability insurance covering job seekers for negligence that causes third-party personal injury or damage.

All work health and safety concerns are taken seriously. Complaints or issues brought to the department’s attention are followed up and investigated as a priority. The department has processes in place to respond to all reported incidents to ensure appropriate action is taken and job seekers are safe. It also conducts a range of program assurance activities to test whether program requirements are being met. These are supported by regular reminders and communication with employment services providers on their obligations.

New Business Assistance with NEIS

New Business Assistance with NEIS provides accredited small business training, mentoring and support. In 2017–18, 6869 individuals received assistance from NEIS to help start their own business. This was an increase of 11 per cent in the number of people receiving support in 2016–17. The department continues to work closely with NEIS providers and other stakeholders to increase the opportunities for self-employment.

New Business Assistance with NEIS also provides eligible participants with access to income support for up to 39 weeks while starting their business.

Harvest labour services

To help meet the labour needs of horticultural enterprises, the department contracts providers of harvest labour services to match out-of-area workers with harvesting jobs across rural and regional Australia. In 2017–18, the five Harvest Labour Services providers filled just over 25,000 harvest positions in 11 harvest areas—Kununurra, Top End, Tablelands, North Burnett, Southern Queensland, Riverina, Goulburn Valley, Mid Murray, Sunraysia, Riverland and Adelaide Hills. This was an increase of 78 per cent over 2016–17.

In April 2017, the department expanded eligibility for Harvest Labour Services to include labour hire companies and contractors, and harvest work other than picking (such as chipping, weeding, pruning and packing). These changes were well received by providers and have improved uptake of the program by employers in 2017–18. Harvest Labour Service providers report that while employers sometimes find it hard to recruit staff at short notice, there are no widespread labour shortages in areas covered by the program, and it is meeting employer demand.

The National Harvest Labour Information Service

To help promote harvest work opportunities across all growing regions in Australia, the department contracts the National Harvest Labour Information Service to produce a comprehensive harvest guide, operate a free-call call centre, and keep the Harvest Trail website up to date. In 2017–18, the National Harvest Labour Information Service received more than 17,000 calls from employers, working holiday makers and Australian job seekers.