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Last updated:
18/06/2020

What is a Universal Credit Sanction?

A Universal Credit sanction is a reduction of your benefit payment for a set-time for failing to meet the conditions of your Claimant Commitment. We explain how much this is, the type of sanction that can be given to you, and how to avoid another one.

When you claim Universal Credit, you will need to accept your Claimant Commitment - the responsibilities you have accepted in return for the benefit.

If you fail to meet the conditions of your Claimant Commitment, without good reason, your Universal Credit payments may be reduced– this is called a Universal Credit sanction.

How much is a Universal Credit sanction?

How much your Universal Sanction will be is determined by several factors explained in the table below:

Your situation Universal Credit sanction amount
Single and over 25 £10.40 per day
Single and under 25 £8.20 per day
If you are a couple and one or both of you are over 25 (If only one of you has been sanctioned) £8.20 per day
If you are a couple and both of you are under 25 (If only one of you has been sanctioned) £6.40 per day

If you are a single claimant, your sanction should not be more than your standard Universal Credit allowance.

Whether you are a single or joint claimant, you will continue to get additional Universal Credit elements if you are sanctioned.

Exceptions

If you receive a Universal Credit Sanction, you may have less money taken off you if:

  • You are 16 or 17 years old (40% of the Standard Allowance)
  • You are only expected to take part in work-focused interviews – this mainly applies if you care for young children or have a disability or severe mental health condition.
  • You are someone who has no work-related requirements because you:
  • Are the primary carer for a child under one.
  • Are pregnant, and your baby is due in less than 11 weeks.
  • Gave birth less than 15 weeks ago.
  • Have adopted a child within the last 12 months.

If you believe the above applies to you and you are having the full sanction applied to you, you should seek independent advice from a welfare benefits advisor.

How long do Universal Credit sanctions last?

There are four levels of sanction for Universal Credit, and the period of reduction will increase if you fail to meet requirements multiple times in each level.

Higher level sanction

The higher level of Universal Credit sanction comes with the following penalties:

Number of higher level sanctions Duration
First time 91 days (13 weeks)
Second time and each subsequent time 182 days (26 weeks)

You can receive a higher level sanction for the failing the following conditions in your Claimant Commitment:

  • You have to meet the 'work search requirement' but failed to apply for a specific job.
  • You have to meet the 'work availability requirement', but you refused a job offer.
  • You have left a job or reduced your working hours (this can be voluntarily or through misconduct at work) while claiming Universal Credit or before your claim.

If you are 16 or 17 years old, a high level sanction will usually last 14 days, or 28 days if you have already received a high level sanction in the past year.

Medium level sanction

The medium level of Universal Credit sanction comes with the following penalties:

Number of medium level sanctions Duration
First time 28 days (4 weeks)
Second time and each subsequent time 91 days (13 weeks)

You can receive a medium level sanction for the failing the following conditions in your Claimant Commitment:

  • You have to meet the 'work search requirement' but failed within reason to find paid work or increase your earnings.
  • You have to meet the 'work availability requirement', but you are unable to start work or attend job interviews.

If you are 16 or 17 years old, a medium level sanction will usually last for seven days, or 14 days if you have already received a medium level sanction in the past year.

Low level sanction

The low level of Universal Credit sanction will last until you do whatever you were sanctioned for plus:

Number of low level sanctions Duration
First time 7 days (1 week)
Second time 14 days (2 weeks)
Third time 28 days (4 weeks)

You can receive a low level sanction for the failing the following conditions in your Claimant Commitment:

  • Not attending a work-focused interview.
  • You are not signing on when you are expected to.
  • Not attending a training course that was recommended as part of your work preparation.
  • Not taking specific action required of you to increase the money you earn from work.
  • Not providing evidence that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has requested.

Lowest level sanction

The lowest level of Universal Credit sanction applies only if you have to meet the work-focused interview requirement, and you fail to attend. This sanction will last until you next attend your work-focused interview.

How does a Universal Sanction reduction work?

You can not receive more than one sanction at once; however, if you have received another sanction, it can be applied once your current sanction has ended.

When you have received a sanction, it will be taken from your next Universal Credit payment, or future payments, until your sanction has ended.

Sanctions are calculated after taking your earnings and unearned income into consideration. If there is not enough Universal Credit remaining to take the full sanction amount, the sanction will be reduced to zero and considered to be paid in full.

If you are struggling financially because of your Universal Credit sanction read our guide on how to get financial help if you have had a universal credit sanction.

What can I do if I don't agree with a sanction?

If you don't agree with a Universal Credit sanction, you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration within one month of the issued sanction. Find out how to challenge a Universal Credit sanction.

How to avoid another Universal Credit sanction?

There are several things you can do to make sure you don't receive another Universal Credit sanction.

Making sure your Claimant Commitment is suitable for you

If you are finding it challenging to meet the conditions of your Claimant Commitment, you should discuss changing this with your work coach.

Get more advice with our how to change your Universal Credit Claimant Commitment guide.

Reporting a change in circumstance

You are required to inform the DWP of any change in your personal circumstances. You should contact the Universal Credit helpline immediately to avoid an additional sanction.

If you can't make a Jobcentre appointment

If you can't make your scheduled Jobcentre appointment, you will need to contact them immediately and explain your reasons and ask to rearrange for another day.

If you contact them by phone, make a note of the following:

  • The date and time of the call.
  • The person you spoke with.

If you're finding the cost of travelling to and from your Jobcentre appointment is too much, you can ask your work coach what support is available.

Keep a work-related journal

You should keep a work-related journal to provide evidence of meeting the conditions of your Claimant Commitment. This could include:

  • The time, date and duration you spent looking for a job online.
  • Recording what jobs you've applied for.
  • If you haven't been able to apply, write down the reasons why and provide evidence (such as a doctors note if you were unwell).

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