15.1 In this Inquiry, the ALRC is considering what improvements could be made to the Commonwealth employment law framework—beginning with the pre-employment stage. This chapter examines ways in which Job Services Australia (JSA)—the national employment services system—Disability Employment Services (DES) and the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) systems do, or could, respond to the needs of job seekers experiencing family violence. In particular, this chapter considers:

  • JSA—including tender arrangements, information sharing processes and protocols and screening for family violence;

  • JSA and DES provider responses to disclosure of family violence by job seekers;

  • Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI)—conduct and content of JSCIs;

  • Employment Services Assessment (ESAt) and Job Capacity Assessment (JCA)—referral to, and conduct of, ESAts and JCAs and the impact of family violence;

  • education and training; and

  • employment services for specific groups of job seekers, including Indigenous peoples, job seekers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, job seekers with disability and those in rural and remote areas.

15.2 Through examining ways in which these systems can effectively identify family violence and address barriers to work faced by those experiencing family violence, the aim is to secure access for victims of family violence to the financial and emotional benefits of employment, to protect their safety.

15.3 In particular, the ALRC proposes that those who wish to tender to become employment service providers must demonstrate an understanding of family violence and its impact on job seekers. The ALRC also proposes that the JSCI should include a new category of information in relation to family violence. With the enhanced disclosure of family violence that might result, the ALRC also considers what information-sharing processes and protocols, as well as privacy safeguards, are appropriate. Other proposals in this chapter concern JSA and DES provider responses to the disclosure of family violence, the conduct of ESAts and JCAs, and education and training for a range of people involved in the pre-employment stage.

Family violence and pre-employment

15.4 In considering the safety of job seekers who are victims of family violence, the ALRC refers both to actual safety from harm (for example, through ensuring a job seeker is not required to attend the same employment services provider as the perpetrator, or through placement in a safe working environment) but also to the financial security and independence ultimately derived from paid employment.

15.5 The impact of family violence on the pre-employment system is significant in a number of respects.

15.6 In many cases family violence may constitute a significant barrier to employment for individual job seekers. Family violence may affect all aspects of a job seeker’s life including, for example, physical and mental health, living circumstances, and caring responsibilities as well as ability to attend work regularly or punctually. As a result, in order to assist job seekers to find (and retain) employment, the system must consider the barriers to work that family violence may impose and respond appropriately or, where necessary, refer the job seeker to a more appropriate system.[1]

15.7 The primary focus of the pre-employment system and of employment services providers is to ensure a job seeker possesses the necessary skills to find employment (and if they do not, to assist them to obtain those skills) and ultimately, to find employment opportunities for the job seeker. However, without early disclosure of family violence or identification of, and appropriate responses to, the family violence-related barriers faced by individual job seekers, ensuring the system achieves these purposes becomes increasingly difficult.

Interaction with social security

15.8 Employment service structures such as JSA and DES are the ‘foundation stone of social inclusion policies’.[2] Without these systems, many people in Australia would be required to rely on income support where they are unable to obtain employment independently. As a result, the other key component of the pre-employment system, aside from JSA, DES and IEP, is social security.

15.9 Engagement with employment services is triggered by receipt of certain social security payments, discussed in Chapter 7. In brief, to qualify for the relevant social security payments, a person must satisfy an activity test or participation requirements. Job seekers receiving Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance and Special Benefit, have an obligation to meet an activity test.[3]

15.10 Job seekers who are receiving Parenting Payment do not have to comply with an activity test, although they are required to comply with an Employment Pathway Plan (EPP) or other special requirements and are also subject to ‘participation requirements’.

15.11 The content of an activity test or participation requirement varies for different payments.[4] If a job seeker is required to register with a JSA or DES provider, then remaining connected with the provider forms part of the job seeker’s requirement to look for work.[5] Failure to attend is considered a ‘connection failure’;[6] this and a range of other compliance issues are discussed in Chapter 7 (including the role of JSA and DES providers in compliance).

15.12 Activity tests and participation requirements are contained in an EPP.[7] An EPP must meet, and be tailored to, the needs of individual job seekers and not place unreasonable demands on them, having regard to their personal circumstances.[8] An ESAt or JCA, discussed in further detail below, are in part used to determine a person’s capacity to work.

15.13 While noting the interaction between the pre-employment and social security systems is important—as engagement with the social security system is often a pre-cursor to engagement with the pre-employment system—overall, the focus of this chapter is on the processes aimed at finding employment for those job seekers who are required to register and engage with JSA and DES providers. The remaining social security-related issues are discussed in Chapters 5–8.

[1] The interaction between the pre-employment system and social security system is discussed in more detail below. See also, Chs 5–8.

[2] Australian Council of Social Service, Submission to Minister for Employment Participation on the Future of Job Services Australia (2011) 3.

[3] An activity test is designed to ensure that unemployed people receiving income support payments are actively looking for work and/or doing everything that they can to become ready for work in the future: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Guide to Social Security Law <> at 22 July 2011, [1.1.A.40]

[4] Ibid, [3.2.8]; [3.2.9]; [] (Suitable Activity—Principal Carer).

[5] Ibid, [] (Job Search Overview);

[6] Ibid, [] (Job Search—Setting Job Search Requirements—Job Seekers with part-time Requirements).

[7] Ibid, [] (Job Search Overview); [] (When are EPPs Required? (PP)).

[8] Ibid, [] (What is an Employment Pathway Plan?).