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Learn more about the Return to Work program

1. The Return to Work program

1.1 The Return to Work program (Program) supports women through the development of a Return to Work Plan which may include the provision of funding to buy goods and services that will help reduce barriers to finding employment. 

1.2 The Program is a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on women’s employment and workforce participation. 

1.3 Stereotypes around the role of women result in many doing more unpaid housework and taking on more caring responsibilities than men. This unequal division of unpaid work has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In turn, this increase in unpaid work has reduced the ability of many women to participate in paid work.  

1.4 Women are also more likely to work in many of the industries hit hardest by COVID-19. Many of the women experiencing unemployment as a result of the pandemic will need to retrain or upskill in order to embrace new opportunities. 

1.5 The Program acknowledges and seeks to address some of the financial challenges women face in returning to the workforce in a COVID-19 recovery environment.

2. What does the Program involve?

2.1 The Program is administered by Service NSW in partnership with Women NSW and the Department of Customer Service.

2.2 Women who receive a grant must develop a Return to Work Plan with the assistance of a Return to Work Coordinator. Service NSW will appoint each eligible woman a Return to Work Coordinator for this purpose.

1.1 How the grant may be used

No. Category Examples Comments



  • accredited training offered by an Australian RTO related to work goals, preferably an RTO based in NSW
  • pre-payment of HECS – HELP/ FEE – HELP fees (no retrospective payments allowed)
  • career coaching/professional development pathways
  • industry fees, e.g. licences, accreditation
  • mentoring for wrap-around support
  • future costs associated with a traineeship or apprenticeship, where the applicant is not guaranteed a job upon completion.

$5000 may be used for this category. 

The grant recipient is responsible for arranging their own enrolment and payment.

RTW Coordinator is to encourage identification of appropriate courses that are free or subsidised and delivered by NSW-based organisations.



Approved items include:

  • textbooks
  • stationery
  • calculator
  • tools needed for course
  • safety/protective equipment needed for course.

Up to $500 may be used towards this category.

The grant recipient is responsible for making all purchases.


Professional attire

Approved attire/personal appearance items include:

  • uniforms
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • office clothes
  • worksite appropriate clothes
  • grooming costs such as a haircut.

Up to $500 may be used towards this category.

The grant recipient is responsible for making all purchases.



Respite refers to payment of fees to organisations or individuals to provide short-term care for a person with disability or requiring supervision (e.g. an older person). This care may take place in the person’s home or elsewhere, e.g. a respite home operated by an independent provider.

A caring arrangement is when a person comes into the applicant’s home when they cannot be there, to ensure the safety and welfare of someone in their care.

Approved childcare/respite and/or caring arrangements:

  • registered preschool/long day care fees
  • registered family day care fees
  • registered before and after school care (OOSH) fees
  • registered respite provider fees
  • payment for informal carers.

Up to $3500 may be used towards this category.

The grant recipient is responsible for making their own childcare and respite arrangements.

The RTW Coordinator should ensure that this funding cannot be sourced elsewhere, e.g. the NDIS, child care rebates or Home Care Package.



Approved transportation items include:

  • public transport, including opal card top up
  • ride-share and taxi fees
  • car-sharing fees such as Go Get
  • car registration / insurance
  • driver's licence
  • driving lessons
  • fuel costs
  • car repairs.

Note: The purchase of a car is out of scope. Applicants should be encouraged to explore other options such as developing skills for remote working, carpooling.

Up to $500 may be used for this category.

The grant recipient is responsible for making their own transportation arrangements.


Technology and office equipment

Approved Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment includes:

  • laptop/PC, tablet, mobile phone
  • data plan to allow internet access
  • software
  • home office equipment (desk, chair, printer, scanner and consumables such as ink)

For trades/traineeships:

  • tools of trade acceptable.

Up to $2000 may be used for this category.

The grant recipient is responsible for making all purchases.

Purchases are to be made from retailers with an ABN.


Relocation costs

Expenses involved in moving to a new region to take up a job opportunity, such as removalist fees, rental bond and personal transport.

Up to $2500 may be used for this category.

The grant recipient is responsible for making all relocation arrangements.

Note: Relocation expenses will require proof of a job offer in another location, that would otherwise involve more than a 1-hour commute each way by public transport.

3. Who is eligible?

3.1 To be eligible for the Program, women must:

  • (a) be an NSW resident;
  • (b) intend to return to the workforce as an employee within six months; and 
  • (c) if previously employed; 
    • (i) be unemployed for the 30 days or more preceding the date of application, and I
    • (ii) intend to return to work within six months; 
  • (d) if: 
    •  (i) previously earning income from a business, have for a period of at least 30 days, ceased earning income from that business, 
    •  (ii) earning other income, such income must not exceed $721.15 gross per week.

3.2 Women are ineligible if they:

  • (a) are currently enrolled in school; or 
  • (b) are on leave, under an entitlement from full-time/part-time employment, and have a role to return to; or  
  • (c) have participated in any other Return to Work program administered by Service NSW.

4. How do I apply?

4.1 Customers who registered their interest in the Program during the Expression on Interest (EOI) period will be invited to apply for the Program. 

4.2 All applications must be submitted via:

  • (a) the Service NSW website, or
  • (b) the Service NSW mobile application.

4.3 Timeframes and key dates

  • (a) Applications will open on 5 September 2022. 
  • (b) Applications will close either when funding is exhausted or six months from the application open date specified in clause 4.3(a), whichever occurs first. 

4.4 All applications must be submitted via:

  • (a) the Service NSW website, or
  • (b) the Service NSW mobile application.

4.5 Applicants must provide:

  • (a) personal contact details (name, email, and phone number);
  • (b) proof of identity; 
  • (c) details of an Australian bank account;  
  • (d) proof of residence in NSW;
  • (e) if previously employed:
    • (i) proof of redundancy, for example, a severance letter, bank statements, or a Centrelink Jobseeker statement; and 
    • (ii) details of previous employment, including employment status (full-time, part-time, casual or temporary) and working hours, and 
  • (f) if earning income from a business:
    • (i) the relevant business Australia Business Number (ABN) details, and 
    • (ii) if the ABN is registered, proof the applicant ceased earning income from the business for at least 30 days prior to their application. For example: 
    • (A) the most recent Business Activity Statement (BAS), or 
    • (B) a letter from a qualified accountant, registered tax agent or registered BAS agent confirming the applicant no longer derives such income. 

4.6 To receive the grant, applicants must: 

  • (a) declare their intention to return to work within six months; and 
  • (b) fully complete the online application and submit all requisite documentation as stated on the application before the application close date set out in clause 4.3(b); and 
  • (c) submit a draft Return to Work Plan as part of the online application, providing as much information as possible about how you intend to spend the grant; or discuss the Return to Work Plan at an appointment with the Return to Work Coordinator. 

4.7 Application approval and process 

  • (a) SNSW will assess all applications. 
  • (b) Approval is discretionary, lodging an application does not guarantee approval. 
  • (c) Service NSW will use reasonable endeavours to notify applicants of the outcome of their application within 21 days.
  • (d) All eligible applicants will be invited to attend an appointment with a Return to Work Coordinator and will be provided with information to help you prepare for the appointment. 
  • (e) The Return to Work Coordinator will finalise the Return to Work Plan which must outline:
    • (i) the applicant’s employment goals; 
    • (ii) the way in which the grant will assist in achieving such goals; 
    • (iii) the specific goods and/or services intended to be purchased; 
    • (iv) cost estimates for each good and/or service to be purchased. 
  • (f) Applicants must agree to the Return to Work Plan before they are provided the grant.
  • (g) Within 6 months of receiving the grant, applicants may be asked to provide any evidence Service NSW considers necessary to demonstrate they used the grant in accordance with the Return to Work Plan. 
  • (h) As applicable, Service NSW may request applicants to explain: 
    • (i) why the grant has not been fully spent, or 
    • (ii) if the grant was not spent in accordance with the Return to Work Plan, the reason. 
  • (i) Applicants must agree to the terms and conditions, including to return any part of the grant that has not been spent in accordance with the Return to Work Plan. 
  • (j) If information in the application is found to be untrue or misleading, the matter may be referred to law enforcement authorities and penalties may apply.

4.8 Important information

  • (a) These guidelines are correct at the time of publishing. 
  • (b) Either Women NSW or Service NSW may amend, alter, or change these guidelines at any time in their discretion. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure they comply. 
  • (c) The guidelines that apply to each application will be the guidelines that are current at the time the application is assessed by Service NSW.
  • (d) Service NSW may share applicant information with other NSW Government agencies.

For further information, or should you have any questions regarding the Program, please contact Service NSW on 13 77 88.

5. Definitions

Terms or expressions starting with a capital letter have the meaning given in this section. 
ABN has the meaning given in clause 4.5(f)(i). 

BAS has the meaning given in clause 4.5(f)(ii)(A). 

EOI has the meaning given in clause 4.1. 

Program has the meaning given in clause 1.1. 

Return to Work Coordinator means a Service NSW staff member that will assist applicants with a Return to Work Plan as per clause 2.2. 

Return to Work Plan means a document that sets out the applicant’s intentions and goals for returning to work. This document can be found at Get started on your Return to Work plan.

Last updated: 5 September 2022