Universal Credit (UC) is paid on a calendar monthly basis and this payment will include any help you are entitled to towards your housing costs and for children if you have children who are dependent on you.
When will you get your first payment?
There is no payment of UC for a calendar month following the date of claim (called the assessment period) and then an additional waiting period of one week after this.
You claim Universal Credit on 8th March. Your first date of entitlement will be 8th March and your first month’s assessment period will end on 7th April. You will receive your payment on 14th April. In other words the waiting period until you get your first payment will usually be 5 to 6 weeks.
You need to decide early on whether you will have enough money to last until this payday. If you do not have enough money to last you can ask for an advance payment and it would be best to do this at your claimant commitment interview. You have to ask for the advance payment within the first month. The DWP guidance states you need to make the request more than 3 days before the end of the month but the law does not state this so you can challenge this if you need to. You should seek advice if you are told you claimed the advance payment too late.
If you need an advance payment you can contact the Job Centre at any stage after making your claim and ask for a payment. If you are refused you should seek advice.
Problems with UC Pay Days
Your Universal Credit pay day is fixed depending on when you made your claim. If you are working part-time and claiming Universal Credit to top up your wages then your Universal Credit will be adjusted to take into account the earnings received in the previous assessment period. Problems arise if the date your wages are paid by your employer varies with the result that in some UC assessment periods you may be considered to have been paid twice and in others you have not been paid at all.
Sue is a lone parent and works for a Local Authority for 25 hours a week. Her assessment period runs from 27th of the month to 26th of the next month (October 27th – November 26th). Her pay day from the local authority is the 28th of each month. Earnings and income from this period will be used to decide her amount of Universal Credit and this will be paid one week after the 26th November – ie 3rd December.
If Sue has no change in earnings then she will receive her Universal Credit on the 3rd December and will receive the same as she did the previous month.
However like many other claimants Sue experiences problems around bank and public holidays. Many large organisations like councils and the NHS may pay their staff earlier because of this. This happens to Sue at Christmas as detailed below
The Local Authority pay Sue a week early in December – so she gets paid on December 21st – when the real time information is relayed to the HMRC by her employers who then relay it to the DWP to decide on her monthly UC it shows that Sue has been paid twice in the same assessment period – ie on November 28th and December 21st (assessment period (December 27th to November 26th). Her income from her earnings is seen as double her usual amount and she potentially does not receive any Universal Credit or a significantly reduced amount for this assessment period so receives no or a lower amount of UC on 3rd January.
Other people who also claim UC and work with Sue are experiencing other issues. For example, her colleague Julie who has a pay day on the 23rd of each month
Julie is a lone parent with 3 dependent school age children and lives in private rented accommodation. She works for 25 hours a week for the same. As she is earning more than £520.00 a month she is not subject to the benefit cap. She also receives a work allowance (earnings disregard) of £198.00 a month on her earnings before her UC is calculated.
However, as it now appears that she does not earn anything in her next assessment period (24th December to 23rd January) as she has been “paid twice” in the previous assessment period, her UC will be calculated differently as there will be no work allowance and, a potential loss due to the benefit cap as she will no longer be protected for that month as it appears that she is not earning over £520.00.
Some claimants may experience this type of problem on several occasions through the year depending on their UC pay day and the way in which they are paid by their employers. Holidays such as Easter, Christmas and potentially other bank holidays could all cause problems and lead to an erratic level of Universal Credit being paid with no entitlement in some months) as well as the potential for a loss of protection form the benefit cap in some months.
Universal Credit claimants could avoid this effect if they were able to change their payday to one which would not cause problems with their employer’s payment schedule. There is currently no provision for this in Universal Credit rules.
Meanwhile we would advise claimants who are working and claiming Universal Credit to find out from their employers when their paydays are and to consider how this fits in with their Universal Credit paydays so that at least they are aware of this problem. Some employers might be prepared to amend paydays to assist with this issue.