Please seek further advice if you are under 18 or do not claim UC and have been sanctioned.
You should not be sanctioned if you are self-employed. If you have been sanctioned, or been threatened with a sanction, seek advice.
What are sanctions?
A sanction is a deduction from your UC. A sanction may be imposed because of something that you have or have not done in relation to your work-related requirements. If a sanction is imposed, then UC is either paid at a reduced rate or nil for a specified period of time. The period depends on the ‘level’ of sanction and whether you have been sanctioned before. You should not be sanctioned if you have ‘good reason’ for not meeting your work-related requirements.
There are more than double the amount of people being sanctioned than before the pandemic. Of the 519,854 sanctions imposed in 2022, 111,305 were repeat sanctions on individuals who had already received a sanction that year. Almost all UC sanctions (96.1% in the latest quarter to April 2023) are now for ‘Failure to attend or participate in a Work-Focused Interview’.1
- A claimant cannot be sanctioned for taking redundancy.
- A claimant can be sanctioned for retiring early without good reason.
- High level sanctions are uncommon.
- Low level sanctions are the most common.
How long will I be sanctioned for?
The sanction level determines the length of the sanction:
|‘All work-related requirements’
|91 or 182 days*
|Failing to apply for or accept a job without good reason or losing a job due to misconduct
|‘Work search’ and/or ‘work availability’ requirement
|28 or 91 days*
|Not being available for work or not taking all reasonable action to get paid or better paid work without good reason
|‘Work-focused interview requirement, together with a ‘work preparation’ and/or ‘work-search requirement’
|Number of days from failure to compliance plus a ‘punishment period’ (punishment period either 7, 14 or 28 days)*
|Without good reason: failing to take a particular specified action which might get more pay, better pay or any paid work, or failing to meet a work-focused interview requirement
|‘Work-focused interview’ requirement only
|Number of days from failure to compliance
|Failure to attend a work-focused interview without good reason
*For the longer sanction length to apply, you must have previously been given the same level of sanction for a sanctionable offence which occurred within the last 365 days, but not in the last 14.
Sanctions reduce your UC by the amount set out in the table below2 . The amount of your sanction is not determined by the sanction level but by your circumstances.
Daily reduction rates
|High reduction rate
|Low reduction rate
|Single under 25
|Couple both under 25
|Couple either 25+
You are eligible for the low-rate reduction if, at the end of the assessment period in which the sanction applies, you are only subject to a work-focused interview requirement or you do not have to meet any work-related requirements because:
- you are the main carer or main foster parent of a child under one; or
- you had a baby not more than 15 weeks ago; or
- it is not more than 52 weeks since your child was placed with you for adoption; or
- you are pregnant, and it is now 11 weeks or less before your due date.
Otherwise, a high-rate reduction applies.
If there is not enough UC left to deduct the full sanction amount, then you would be paid nil. Even though there is no UC being paid, you will keep any entitlement you already had to free school lunches and other passported benefits.
- If you are not clearly notified, then you should not be sanctioned.
- You must be clearly notified about what you are expected to do and the consequences of not doing it. This includes specifics of the
- course/appointment (date, time and place) and the purpose.3
‘Good reason’ is not defined in rules. If you have ‘good reason’ for your actions, then a sanction should not be imposed.
Examples of ‘good reason’ in case law/guidance include4 :
- the wrong work-related requirements have been imposed
- temporary circumstances such as attending court or funeral
- being in hospital
- being the victim of domestic abuse
- childcare issues
These are just examples, there are many other circumstances which could amount to ‘good reason’.
Always check whether your work-related requirements are correct and reasonable for your circumstances.
You can do this by using our tool: Checking your universal credit work-related requirements (for subscribers)
Sanctions can be challenged at any time.
You can ask for a revision of a decision to impose a sanction at any time. Sanctions are one of the specified grounds for an ‘any time revision’. This means sanctions can be challenged years after they were imposed.
As multiple sanctions can run consecutively (with a maximum length of 1095 days) it is important to always consider challenging each sanction decision.
The best way to request a revision of a decision is via your online UC journal. If the sanction decision was made more than a month ago, explain that you are asking for an ‘any time revision’, though this should automatically be considered by the DWP.
Set out your ‘good reason’ for not meeting the requirement that caused the sanction (eg, the DWP imposed the wrong work-related requirements) and provide any supporting evidence you have (eg, hospital discharge letters).
CPAG have a tool that can help you with this: Universal credit sanctions: mandatory reconsideration (for subscribers).
The DWP should issue a mandatory reconsideration notice telling you of its decision on your application for a revision. If you are unhappy with the DWP’s decision, you can appeal to a First-tier Tribunal. The time limit for doing so is normally one month from the date of the mandatory reconsideration notice but in some circumstances this can be extended, as long as you appeal within the absolute time limit which is usually 13 months from the date of the notice. However, if you were notified of the sanction decision more than 13 months ago and the application for a revision is refused, you can appeal outside of the time limit if the tribunal accepts that the decision could have been revised as there was a specific ground. Seek advice before you appeal.
Abi is 27 years old. She claims UC and is expected to meet ‘all work-related requirements’. She is struggling with her mental health which she has informed her work coach about. She must attend the Jobcentre Plus office every week but is increasingly struggling to do so due to anxiety. She misses an appointment and is sanctioned. She challenges the sanction decision stating that she had ‘good reason’ to miss the appointment due to her mental health. She also states that her work-related requirements were incorrect as she had told her work coach at the Jobcentre Plus office that she was struggling to meet her requirements due to ill health. She has also been receiving help from a mental health charity and therefore can provide evidence about how her anxiety is affecting her. The DWP overturns its decision, and her work-related requirements are changed, with her work coach advising her to submit a fit note to be assessed for limited capability for work.
- Disagree with the decision
- Seek advice if needed
- Gather evidence
- Request revision and set out ‘good reason’
- If not successful, appeal decision
If you have been sanctioned, you may be able to get hardship payments if:
- you are aged 18 or over; and
- you have met your work-related requirements in the 7 days before application; and
- you are ‘experiencing hardship’
'Experiencing hardship’ is where you:
- cannot meet your immediate, and most basic and essential needs
- cannot meet the immediate, and most basic and essential needs of a child or qualifying young person
- have made every effort to access alternative sources of financial support to meet, or partially meet, such needs (although you are not expected to do anything that makes your financial position worse, such as taking out a loan or overdraft)
- have made every effort to cease to incur any expenditure which does not relate to such needs.
Hardship payments are recoverable and you must apply for them. They are best applied for every month on your UC payday.
Hardship payments cannot be backdated.
Hardship payments calculation
The calculation for hardship payments is quite complex, though it can be helpful to understand so you know how much you may receive.
Anna is 25 and single. She is usually paid UC on the 3rd of every month. She is sanctioned for 91 days on 17th September. When her UC starts to be paid at the reduced rate, she applies for a hardship payment and qualifies on 7th October.
The hardship period runs from 7th Oct and ends on 2nd Nov (the day before her next UC payment) = 27 days.
Step 1 – calculate the reduction amount for the sanction x length of the UC assessment period (30 days)
For Anna - £12.10 (high-rate daily reduction) x 30 days (assessment period length) = £363
Step 2 – multiply that by 12 and divide by 365 to get the daily amount. Calculate 60% of this amount
For Anna - £363 x 12/365 x 60% = £7.16 (always round this to the nearest penny)
Step 3 – multiply the result by the number of days for which you can have the hardship payment
For Anna - £7.16 x 27 = £193.32
Recovery of hardship payments is discretionary. However, hardship payments are not recoverable in assessment periods in which your monthly earnings (or your and your partner’s combined monthly earnings) are sufficiently high and if you have earnings over this amount for 6 months, then hardship payment recovery is written off. For more information, see our Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook: Recovery of hardship payments (for subscribers).
- Consider whether your work-related requirements are correct
- Challenge the sanction
- Apply for hardship payments
- 2The reduction rates in the table will be subject to change with the new benefit rates in April 2024.
- 3JB v SSWP [2018 ] UKUT 360 (AAC)