Benefit sanctions

When claiming benefits you must follow certain rules, otherwise you may lose your benefits or have them reduced. This is known as a sanction. Find out about Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions and Employment and Support Allowance sanctions.

Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions

If you don’t meet the Jobseeker’s Allowance rules, your benefit may be stopped for between four and 78 weeks (18 months). There are three sanction levels:

  • lower
  • intermediate
  • higher

The level and length of your sanction depends on:

  • the reason you’re claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – for example, if you were dismissed for misconduct from your last job or left it without good reason
  • what you haven’t done to find work
  • whether you’ve already received a sanction in the last year or your claim has been ended, and the reason for this

Lower level sanctions

You may get a lower level sanction (four or 13 weeks) if:

  • you lose an employment scheme place through misconduct or without good reason
  • you don’t go to meetings on time with your adviser or work coach, or take part in interviews
  • you don’t do what your adviser or work coach tells you to do to find work, such as attend a training course or update your CV
  • you don’t take part in employment schemes (for example, Steps 2 Success) when your adviser or work coach tells you to
  • you don’t meet your employment scheme adviser on time or take actions they tell you to
  • you give up a place on a scheme voluntarily

Intermediate level sanctions

If you aren’t available for or actively seeking work, your claim may be ended.

If you make a new claim you may get an intermediate level sanction up to either four or 13 weeks.

Higher level sanctions

You may get a higher level sanction (13, 26 or 78 weeks) if:

  • you were dismissed for misconduct from your last job or without good reason
  • you left your last job
  • you don’t apply for suitable jobs your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser tells you about
  • you don’t take a job you are offered that your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser had told you about

How to avoid a sanction

To avoid a Jobseeker’s Allowance sanction:

  • go to meetings on time with your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser and take part in interviews (such as ‘work focussed interviews’) - if you can’t go, contact them as soon as possible as they may be able to re-arrange
  • be available for work and agree to do the things in your Jobseeker’s Agreement
  • apply for suitable jobs your adviser or work coach tells you about
  • do everything your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser tells you to do to find work, such as going on a training course, updating your CV or completing a job search
  • take part in employment schemes when your adviser or work coach tells you to

Employment and Support Allowance sanctions

Employment and Support Allowance sanctions only apply if you are in the ‘work-related activity group’.

In this group your adviser or work coach will help you plan how and when to do work-related activities, while taking into account your illness, disability or health condition.

If you don’t do these things and don’t have a good reason, you will get a sanction and your payment will be reduced. The sanction may continue for up to four weeks after you re-start your work-related interviews or activity.

How to avoid a sanction

Take the following steps to avoid an Employment and Support Allowance sanction.

Talk to your adviser or work coach

It’s important your adviser or work coach gets to know your circumstances and the support you need. Tell them about anything that affects:

  • your preparation for work
  • your participation in work-related activities
  • you participation in meetings

This can include:

  • more details about your illness, health condition or disability
  • if you’re living with addiction or alcohol problems
  • if you’re a carer
  • if you’re homeless
  • if you have transport problems
  • if you need help with reading, writing or speaking

Tell your adviser or work coach about your circumstances, even if you’re not sure they need to know.

Keep a record

Keep a record of what you do to prepare for work as your adviser or work coach may ask to see what you have been doing.

It’s a good idea to:

  • keep a note of everything you do to prepare for work, including the time and date you did them and how long you spent doing each thing
  • make a note of your meetings at the Jobs and Benefits office and any training you have
  • keep all letters and emails from the Department for Communities or your employment programme provider, such as Steps 2 Success

If you can’t meet your advisor or do work-related activity

There may be times you’re not able to do the things you have been asked to do. For example if:

  • you have a hospital appointment at the same time as a meeting with your adviser or work coach
  • you are unexpectedly ill and cannot do a work-related activity on your plan

If this happens, contact your adviser or work coach straight away to tell them why.

If it’s decided you had a good reason, your payments won’t change. If it’s decided you didn’t have a good reason, you will get a sanction.

If you get a sanction

If you get a sanction:

  • your payment will be reduced
  • you will get a letter telling you how much your payment is reduced by

You can ask your adviser or work coach to tell you what this means for you.

Appealing a sanction

If you disagree with a sanction decision, you must first ask for it to be reviewed by the office that issued the decision before you can appeal the decision.

For further information on this process, see Appeal against a benefits decision.

Financial hardship

If you suffer financial hardship because of a sanction you may be entitled to a hardship payment. For more details, contact your local Jobs and Benefits office.

Help and advice

The independent Welfare Changes Helpline provides help and advice about changes to the welfare system.

More useful links

 

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