As a part of the government’s strategy to get more people back into work to solve skills shortages being experienced by many industries, a permanent enhancement to the pensioner work bonus has been announced, along with a doubling of the employment income nil rate period to reduce barriers for income support recipients to take up work.

Under the Age Pension income tests, a single individual can earn up to $204 per fortnight and a couple up to $360 per fortnight before the amount of pension starts to reduce at a rate of 50 cents for every dollar over the respective thresholds. The work bonus for pensioners reduces the amount of eligible income that is included in the income test, meaning that pensioners can earn more before their pensions are reduced. It accrues at a rate of $300 per fortnight up to the maximum limit.

The maximum work bonus balance limit is $11,800 from the period 1 December 2022 to 31 December 2023. During this period, pensioners are also eligible for a one-off increase of $4,000 to their work bonus balance. The maximum work bonus balance limit was temporarily increased from the previous limit of $7,800 as a result of the Jobs and Skills Summit and was set to expire 1 January 2024 without the introduction of legislation to extend it.

To enable to continuation of the measure, the government has announced that, pending the passage of legislation, all new pension entrants over the Age Pension age and eligible veterans will have a starting work bonus income bank balance of $4,000. In addition, existing and new eligible recipients will retain the current elevated maximum work bonus limit of $11,800, all set to commence from 1 January 2024.

To complement the work bonus measure, the government has also announced the doubling of the employment income nil rate period to 12 fortnights and will expand access to those who enter full-time employment from 1 July 2024, pending the passage of legislation. Currently, if an income support recipient earns employment income over a certain amount, the income support payment is reduced to nil, and after six fortnights the support payment is cancelled if the employment income is still too high.