The rules about sanctions under Universal Credit mean that there will be more people who will be sanctioned than the previous benefits system. In fact evidence is suggesting that the rate of sanctions under Universal Credit is three times that of JSA. It is possible to be sanctioned even if you are in paid work.
It should also be noted that Hardship Payments are paid as loans and will have to be repaid at the end of the sanction.
The rules for the level of Universal Credit sanctions are based on the rules for JSA and ESA sanctions. Anyone who receives Universal Credit can be sanctioned and the level of the sanction depends upon the conditionality group that you are placed in. More information about the conditionality groups can be found in the article Your Responsibilities if you get Universal Credit
Highest Level Sanctions
Highest level sanctions can only be applied to people who are placed in the full conditionality group.
You can be sanctioned if:
- You lose your job through misconduct
- You leave work voluntarily
- You fail to do mandatory work activity
- You fail to apply for or to accept paid work
- You lose pay if you are in paid work (without a good reason)
The last of the above is a new reason for being sanctioned which has been introduced under Universal Credit.
There are three fixed increasing 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)
Medium Level Sanctions
Medium level sanctions apply to people who are in the full conditionality group.
You can be sanctioned if:
- You fail to be available for work
- You fail to take all the actions expected to get paid work
The fixed sanction periods are
- 4 weeks for the first failure
- 13 weeks for the second failure and any more failures after this
Low level sanctions
Low level sanctions apply to people in the full conditionality group, and in the work preparation and work focused interview group .
You can be sanctioned if:
- You fail to attend a work focused interview
- You fail to comply with a work search requirement
- You fail to comply with a work-related requirement
- You fail to take a particular action to get paid work (full conditionality group only)
The fixed escalating sanction periods are:
- Until you comply with the requirement and a penalty period of 7 days
- Until you comply with the requirement and a penalty period of 14 days for the second failure
- Until you comply with the requirement and a penalty period of 28 days for the third failure
Lowest level sanctions
Lowest level sanctions apply to people in the work focused interview group only.
You can be sanctioned if you
- Fail to attend a work focused interview
Your benefit will be sanctioned at a 40% rate until you attend the interview each time you are sanctioned for this failure.
If you have a second sanction while the first sanction period is still running this period will be added on to the end of your current sanction. Any further sanctions continue to be added on until the length of the outstanding sanction is 3 years (1095 days). This is the longest time you can be sanctioned for.
All of these sanctions are only applied if you do not have good cause for the action you took.
How to avoid being sanctioned
You can avoid being sanctioned by meeting all of the conditions in your claimant commitment. This may be difficult if the claimant commitment does not take into account all of your problems. The claimant commitment should reflect your problems and should be set at a level of activity you can manage. If you think that the claimant commitment level is too high you can ask for this to be reduced. More information about this is contained in the post Universal Credit and Vulnerability.
Claimant commitment levels for those in the full conditionality group in particular are likely to be higher than they were under Job Seekers Allowance and many claimants who were not subject to claimant commitments under the old benefits system will also have to meet the conditions of claimant commitments.
If you are aware that you have failed to meet a requirement ie you did not attend an interview on the right day you shoudl attend as soon as you realise the mistake and explain why you could not attend earlier. You may be able to prevent your case being referred for a sanction by keeping DWP informed.
What to do if you are sanctioned
If you have a Universal Credit sanction it is important that the decision is challenged through a Mandatory Reconsideration as quickly as possible. You will need to argue that you have good cause for the action which you took. There is more information about this in the article Have you had your benefit sanctioned..
If you have no other income you will need to ask for Hardship Payments during your sanction. You may also need to be referred to a Foodbank.
Rate of sanction
The rate of the sanction will be 100% of your standard Universal Credit Allowance for a single person or for a couple where one person only has been sanctioned it will be 50% of the couple personal allowance.
The rate of the sanction will be reduced to 40% of this amount if:
- You are aged 16 or 17
- You are the carer of a child under one
- You are pregnant and have less than 11 weeks before the baby is due
- You have had a baby in the last 15 weeks (including if the baby was stillborn)
- You have had an adopted child placed with you in the last 52 weeks
- Your claimant commitment requires you to only attend work focused interviews
The rate of the sanction is reduced to nil if you have no work related requirements in your claimant commitment because you have limited capability for work and for work related activity.
Hardship Payments can be claimed by people who have had Universal Credit sanctions. However it will be more difficult to get a Universal Credit Hardship Payment than a Hardship Payment when other benefits have been sanctioned. Hardship Payments are paid at the rate of 60% of the benefit which has been stopped if:
- You cannot meet your most immediate and basic needs for accommodation, heating, food and hygiene
- You have made every effort to access other sources of support and stop any spending on other needs
- You have met all the work related requirements in the last 7 days
- You have applied for and given the evidence needed to the DWP in connection with the application.
You will be expected to make a new application for Hardship Payments each month during your sanction period before the first day of each of your monthly assessment periods.
Universal Credit Hardship Payments are also loans and have to be repaid by deductions from your benefit at the end of the sanction period.
If a Hardship Payment is refused or if this is not enough to prevent hardship more information about other options is given in the article Have you had your benefit sanctioned. In some situations you might also qualify for a Discretionary Housing Payment.