If you are claiming universal credit (UC), income support (IS), jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) or employment and support allowance (ESA), you are normally expected to meet certain work-related requirements. If you do not meet the work-related requirements, your benefit entitlement continues, but you may be subject to a sanction. If you are given a sanction, your benefit is paid at a reduced (or sometimes nil) rate for a set period.
If you get UC, ‘new-style’ JSA or ‘new-style’ ESA (see box below) then, depending on your circumstances, your work-related requirements may consist of:
- work-focused interviews;
- a work preparation requirement;
- a work search requirement (for UC and JSA only, not ESA);
- a work availability requirement (for UC and JSA only, not ESA).
Income support, ‘new-style’ and ‘old-style’ JSA and ESA
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) call contribution-based JSA or contributory ESA which are awarded under the UC system, ‘new-style’ JSA and ‘new-style’ ESA.
The DWP call contribution-based JSA or contributory ESA which are not awarded under the UC system, and income-based JSA and income-related ESA, ‘old-style’ JSA and ‘old-style’ ESA.
This page does not cover the work-related requirements for IS, old-style JSA and old-style ESA.
If you are unsure whether you get ‘new-style’ or ‘old-style’ JSA or ESA, see Old-style’ ESA: who can get it?
For the work-related requirements for IS, old-style JSA and old-style ESA see Chapter 48: Claimant responsibilities in our Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook (for subscribers).
In some situations, no work-related requirements should be imposed on you, or only certain work-related requirements should apply.
Recent domestic abuse
If you have recently experienced domestic abuse then your work-related requirements might be eased. For this to apply you must meet all of the following conditions:
- you must have experienced or been threatened with domestic violence by your partner, former partner, or a family member, and have notified the DWP of this. The DWP use the term ‘domestic violence’ to cover domestic violence and abuse (on this page we refer to both as domestic abuse). See the box below for the DWP’s definitions of ‘domestic violence’ and ‘family member’; and
- you must have notified the DWP within six months of the last incident of or threat of domestic abuse; and
- on the date you notify the DWP, you must not be living at the same address as the perpetrator; and
- you must not have previously had your work-related requirements eased because of domestic abuse in the 12 months before the date you notified the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
What is meant by ‘domestic violence’?
‘Domestic violence’ is defined as any incident, or pattern of incidents, of controlling behaviour, coercive behaviour, violence or abuse including but not limited to:
- psychological abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- emotional abuse; or
- financial abuse
What is meant by ‘family member’?
A ‘family member’ is your grandparent, parent, step-parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, son, step-son, son-in-law, daughter, step-daughter, daughter-in-law, sibling, step-sibling or sibling-in-law and if any of them are part of a couple, their partner.
Universal credit, new-style JSA and new-style ESA
If you get UC, new-style JSA, or new-style ESA and you meet the four conditions above:
- no work-related requirements should apply to you for the first 13 weeks after you notify the DWP of the abuse, provided you submit appropriate evidence of the abuse from a person acting in an ‘official capacity’ within one month of notifying the DWP of the abuse (see below for the evidence required and who can provide it); and
- for UC, you do not have to meet the work search or work availability requirements for a further 13 weeks after the first 13 weeks, provided you are responsible for a child under the age of 16. However, depending on your circumstances, you might be expected to undertake work-focused interviews or be subject to the work preparation requirement.
Note: if you get UC as well as either new-style JSA or new-style ESA, you only need to meet one set of work-related requirements: those for UC.
Evidence of domestic abuse
The evidence you provide must be from someone acting in an ‘official capacity’. It must confirm that your circumstances are consistent with someone who experienced domestic abuse, or the threat of it, during the six months before you notified the DWP of the abuse.
Someone acting in an official capacity includes:
- a healthcare professional;
- a social worker;
- a police officer;
- your employer;
- a trade union representative;
- a support worker or other professional from a public, voluntary, or charitable body with which you have had contact about the abuse.
If your child has witnessed abuse or violence
If you get UC, the work search requirement should not apply to you, and the work availability requirement should be paused, for a period of a month if:
- you are the main carer for a child aged under 16 who has been a victim of, or witness to, an incident of violence or abuse; and
- the incident happened within the last two years; and
- you did not carry out the incident of violence or abuse; and
- the incident has resulted in a significant disruption your normal childcare responsibilities.
This can be allowed once in each six-month period in the two years following the incident. It can apply whether or not the abuse or violence was committed by your partner, ex-partner, a family member or someone else. However, if the incident is the same episode of domestic abuse for which your work- related requirements have been eased for the period of 13 or 26 weeks described above, the month runs at the same time.
There are other situations in which no work-related requirements are imposed on you, or in which certain work-related requirements don’t apply to you. For further details see ‘Which requirements apply’ in our Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook (for subscribers).
Further help on benefits and tax credits
Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook, a comprehensive guide to benefits and tax credits for claimants and advisers which is available in print or online.
CPAG’s Early Warning System
The Early Warning System gathers information and case studies about how changes to the benefit system are affecting the wellbeing of children, families and the communities and services that support them. This helps us explain the impact on families and work for improvements in the system, to deliver better outcomes for children.
Early Warning System
Further information and advice on domestic abuse
If you are in immediate danger: phone 999
A federation of frontline domestic abuse services, supporting women and children
Women’s Aid (England)
Scotland’s domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline
National domestic abuse helpline
Tel: 0808 2000 247 (Freephone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Online chat: nationaldahelpline.org.uk/Chat-to-us-online
Respect Men’s Advice Line
Help and support for male victims of domestic violence
Help and support for LGBT+ people who have experienced domestic abuse