The rules for Jobseekers Allowance sanctions changed on 22nd October 2012. Under the new sanctions regime there are “higher level sanctions”, “intermediate level sanctions” and “lower level sanctions”.
Higher level sanctions apply if the DWP consider you are in any of the following situations:
- If you lose your job through misconduct
- If you leave work voluntarily
- If you refuse to take up or apply for a job the Department for Work & Pensions notify you of
- If you fail to take up a reasonable job opportunity
- If you fail to take part in a prescribed course
- If you fail to participate in mandatory work activity
There are three fixed escalating sanctions:
- 13 weeks for the first failure
- 26 weeks for the second failure within 52 weeks of the previous failure
- 3 years for the third failure within 52 weeks of the most recent failure (please note this is not the date of the decision)
However a second failure within 2 weeks of the most recent sanction does not cause a further escalation. There are further rules that prevent escalations in sanctions where the first/previous sanction occurred before the start of the JSA Claim. In addition sanctions applied where you leave a fixed-term contract early are limited to the date that the contract was due to end.
Lower level sanctions and Intermediate level sanctions
Lower level sanctions apply to you where other conditions have not been met. These include failure to:
- sign on as required
- attend a notified Department for Work & Pensions interview
- participate in a prescribed course
- carry out a reasonable jobseekers direction
- take up a training scheme or employment programme place, giving up a course or programme without good reason or losing a place on a course or programme due to misconduct
The period of the sanction in these cases is:
- 4 weeks for a first failure
- 13 weeks for a second failure within 52 weeks of the first failure
Intermediate level sanctions are imposed where a claim for JSA ends after a decision that a claimant was not available for or actively seeking work and a new JSA claim is made. These sanctions are 4 weeks for the first new claim and 13 weeks for any subsequent new claims within 52 weeks of the most recent termination of a claim.
How to avoid being Sanctioned
The most obvious way to avoid being sanctioned is to comply with the work-related requirements for the benefit you are claiming. If you think a requirement is unreasonable you should discuss this with an advisor at the Jobcentre. You can also seek advice from an independent advisor about this.
When you are required to do work-search activities, apply for jobs or participate in Mandatory Work Activity, you should keep a careful record of what you have been asked to do and the steps you have taken to comply with the requirements. You should note the dates and times of interviews, telephone calls and appointments, and keep records of any correspondence. You should ensure that DWP are aware of any reasons why you are vulnerable such as having health problems, caring responsibilities, being homeless or having suffered domestic violence as these and other circumstances can lead to a reduction in the level of work searching activities.
In any circumstances you cannot legally be sanctioned if you have done at least 3 steps to look for work in each week. In some circumstances your individual limit may be less than this. DWP commonly ask people to do many more steps than this in their work search activity.
You may be able to avoid having more sanctions in future if you can switch your claim to another benefit ie you may be able to claim a benefit such as Employment and Support Allowance if you are too ill to work or you may be able to claim Income Support as a carer.
What to do if you are sanctioned
If you are sanctioned it is important that the decision is challenged. For more information on how to do this refer to the article on Mandatory Reconsiderations
Rate of sanction
All sanctions are imposed at the rate of 100% of the JSA award. If you are a joint claim couple and only one of you is sanctioned the remaining partner will be paid as a single person. If both are sanctioned the full JSA will cease.
Hardship Payments are made to people who are considered to be vulnerable. More information about hardship payments is available in the article Have you had your Benefit sanctioned?