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Policy Bulletin No. 03 / 16 (Further amendments to Civil Law Policy-employment law matters)

22 Nov 2016

The Legal Aid NSW Board has approved amendments to the Civil Law Policy and Guidelines relating to employment law.

The Legal Aid NSW Board has approved:

  • continuation of the Civil Law policy changes approved in October 2015; and 
  • an amendment to Civil law Guidelines 3.3.2.


In October 2015, the Board approved amendments to the Civil Law Policy to more accurately target vulnerable clients in employment law matters.  Further information can be found in the Policy Bulletin.

A new ‘at social disadvantage’ test

The main change to the policy was the introduction of a new “at social disadvantage’ test.  An applicant is ‘at social disadvantage’ if Legal Aid NSW is satisfied they are a person who is at significant risk of suffering social or financial detriment as a result of matters relating to their current or recent employment.

In assessing whether an applicant is ‘at social disadvantage’ Legal Aid NSW will consider factors including:

  • the applicant’s level of financial vulnerability, and
  • the applicant’s level of personal vulnerability, or
  • whether the applicant is an Aboriginal person, a child or a victim of domestic violence or at risk of domestic violence.

Financial vulnerability

To satisfy the financial vulnerability criteria, Legal Aid NSW must be satisfied the applicant satisfies three of the following:

  1. is in debt and they are unable to repay
  2. has to rely on a welfare agency for support (e.g. Mission Australia, Anglicare or Centrelink)
  3. has no savings that can be called upon
  4. has no access to credit from a bank, building society or credit union
  5. is behind or at risk of falling behind in rent or mortgage payments
  6. is in difficulty meeting utility payments such as electricity, water, phone or gas
  7. could not raise $2000 in a week for an emergency (e.g. to fix a broken appliance).

Personal vulnerability

To satisfy the personal vulnerability criteria, currently Legal Aid NSW must be satisfied the applicant satisfies three of the following:

  1. has a low level of education, literacy, training or skills
  2. has an ongoing health condition or disability
  3. has very poor ability to communicate in English
  4. has unstable/temporary housing
  5. lives in a suburb that has high levels of disadvantage and unemployment
  6. has a criminal record
  7. is fifty nine (59) years of age or over
  8. is at risk of long term unemployment.

Amendment to the Guidelines regarding personal vulnerability

On 1 November 2016, the Board approved an amendment to the personal vulnerability criteria to include two groups of potentially vulnerable workers:

  • young people under 25 years of age
  • applicant’s aged ‘fifty five (55) years of age or over’.  (Criteria 7 above will be amended from ‘fifty nine (59) years of age or over’).

Where do I find the changes?

The changes can be found on Policy Online, Civil Law Policy (Employment matters) 6.13 and Civil Law Guidelines 3.3.

Commencement date

The above amendments to the Guidelines are effective for determinations of applications made on or after 21 November 2016.