If you’re struggling to cope, or feel you are being treated disrespectfully by your job agency or Centrelink, chances are your rights as a social security recipient are being violated.
The good news is you do have rights. Understanding your rights is the first step to taking control, fighting back, and making the best of a bad situation.
The Government has failed to regulate the job agencies and Centrelink. It is up to us — unemployed workers and other recipients — to hold them accountable.
As of 1st July 2018, the government has cruelly stripped you of your rights to appeal against unfair job agency decisions (points 1-4). But together we can fight back against the Demerit Point system. You need to build your case for when you are able to appeal at points 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Follow these three steps to Dump Your Demerits!
Keep a diary of all interactions, (can include audio recordings), note dates, what was said, who said it, and how they disrespected your rights.
Complain in writing to the Department of Jobs and Small Business, your job agency, federal politicians, the media, and ASIC. This is not a random list. We have carefully selected the agencies we need to target.
Collect all complaints and evidence. You will need this for your assessments and appeals.
Remember you are not alone.
Need help recording evidence? Need help writing your complaint? Need help making an appeal?
Get assistance from an AUWU advocate, at our national advocacy service here.
Unemployed workers are uniting to fight back against this unfair system. The government’s punitive $7 billion job agency system will crumble under its own weight. The cracks are already forming!
Join the fight, and Dump Your Demerits!
Mistreatment or misconduct by your job agency
The AUWU has found that writing emails is the best way for unemployed workers to communicate with their job agencies as they are unable use bullying tactics to derail the issue. It also provides a written record of your issue which you can use later.
If your job agency has imposed a demerit point, you must call your job agency to reengage immediately.
A few common examples include
- Forcing you to attend more than one appointment per month (for jobactive and Community Development Program agencies) or one appointment per fortnight (for DES agencies)
- Forcing you to do Work for the Dole when you are ineligible
- Denying you your right to ‘Reasonable Notice’ or a ‘Reasonable Excuse’
- Denying you your right to be provided with basic employment services.
If you would like more information on your rights, have a look at our Rights Booklet
If you cannot get a straight answer, the best approach might be to email reception and put your case manager’s name in the subject line. Alternatively you can provide them with a hard copy letter.
The following issues are covered (click on a template to download as a word document):
- Ensuring Minimum Mutual Obligation Requirements (Job Active)
- Being Forced to Do Work for the Dole While in Paid Work or Receiving Reduced Newstart
- Ensuring Job Agency Obligations (Jobactive)
- Payslip Issue
- Bullied By Job Agency
- My Right To Suitable Work (Jobactive)
- My Right to the Employment Fund (jobactive)
- Denied Right to Attend Voluntary Work/Approved Study etc (Jobactive)
- My Right to One Month Waiting Period Before Signing Job Plan (jobactive)
- My Right to Fair Job Plan (jobactive)
Disability Employment Services
- My Right to Transfer Job Agencies (DES)
- My Right to Employment Assistance Fund and Wage Subsidy (DES)
- Job Agency Obligations (DES)
- Ensuring Minimum Mutual Obligations (DES)
- My Right to a Fair Job Plan (DES)
Community Development Program
email@example.com (to inform complaints line)
firstname.lastname@example.org (to inform Minister of Employment)
email@example.com (to inform the Shadow Minister for Employment Services)
firstname.lastname@example.org (to inform the Greens)
email@example.com (to inform the AUWU)
We also encourage you to CC your job agency’s CEO and other top brass. You can find a comprehensive list of their addresses here.
Now you are ready to make a splash with your letter!
Dealing with a Centrelink penalty
You can request a review by:
- Calling Centrelink;
- completing a Review of Decision Form (SS351)
- or visiting a service centre.
We also urge you to contact your local MP, and anyone else who could exert pressure on Centrelink to rule in your favour.
Dealing with a payment suspension
If you believe that your job agency either did not make an attempt to contact you to determine if you had a ‘reasonable excuse’ or unfairly rejected your excuse, you should challenge the penalty immediately by taking the following steps:
Additionally, you can request to be assigned a different job agent, or to transfer to a different agency (see section 1.11 of the Rights Booklet).
NB: If you do not wish to make a complaint and want to have your payment reinstated, call your job agent to organise a re-engagement appointment. It’s important to submit a written complaint as it provides a record, which you can use later. Documenting your mistreatment with accurate dates and names ensures that any future appeal you undertake will have the best possible chance of success.
Lodging a complaint with the Department can be difficult. The AUWU has received cases where the phone operator refused to lodge the complaint. If this happens, inform the Department that it is your right to have your complaint processed.
When talking to the Department make sure to ask them for the reference number for the call and the name of the phone operator. This will be useful later if you need to take further steps.
If the Department processes the complaint, they will contact the job agency and inform them of the complaint and ask them for a response. The Department may send you some material in the mail giving them permission to contact the job agency on your behalf.
It is the Ombudsman’s role to ensure Government departments effectively process reviews. Make sure you get a reference number for your appeal from Centrelink as the Ombudsman will ask for it.
Share your experience with us
Whether your appeal is successful or otherwise, do write and tell us about your experience, and send along any relevant documentation. Depending on the outcome, we can either post your success story to inspire others, or expose misconduct by your job agency and or Centrelink (but we’ll do so only with your consent).
During my first appointment, my job agent insisted that I must attend fortnightly appointments. It’s Skills Plus policy, she explained, and I could either accept it or go elsewhere.
Afterwards, I wrote a letter using this template, sent it to my job agent from an AUWU email address, and made sure to CC the CEO of Skills Plus (Ben Vasiliou at the time of writing). I got a reply from the CEO, explaining that he’d spoken with my job agent and her boss, and I should raise the issue at my next appointment. I did so, and found that my job agent had changed her tune completely. Apparently, she is ‘perfectly happy’ to reduce my appointments to one per month; it’s just that everyone else – she claimed – is glad to attend fortnightly. That may be the case, but how can she know what people would prefer, if they’re not given an option? No doubt she didn’t ask them, and simply told them what she told me: you must attend fortnightly appointments or find another job agency.
– Igor 20/7/17
Skills Plus paid for my fancy threads!
A sales company invited me to attend an interview, and asked that I wear ‘business attire,’ (read fancy clothes) which of course I did not own. I informed my job agent of the situation, mentioned the $300 Employment Fund I should have access to for just such a situation, and she agreed to reimburse me (provided I sent copies of my receipts). So I went on a last minute shopping spree, and bought a business shirt, tie, trousers, dress shoes, and got a haircut to boot. All in all I spent $209.50.
A month went by and I still hadn’t been reimbursed. I complained to my job agent at our next appointment, and she implied the Department of Employment was holding up the show, and that she’d sort it out. Another two weeks went by and still nothing, so I called the Department of Employment who advised me to contact the Skills Plus site manager. I did so, and CC’ed my job agent. I got an immediate response from her, and $209.50 appeared in my account a few days later (deposited by Skills Plus, not the Department of Employment).
The moral is: complain early, and in writing.
– Igor 22/9/17