Universal credit



Sanctions can be applied if you fail to comply with any of the work-related requirements which apply to you.

There are four levels of sanctions which can be applied, and the length of time you can be sanctioned can range from one week to three years.

If your Universal Credit award is reduced as a result of a sanction you can apply for a recoverable hardship payment.

AdviceNow have produced a useful survival guide to benefit sanctions.

If you have been sanctioned and you disagree with the decision you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

If you are still unhappy after this then you can appeal the decision. If you would like more information about sanctions and how to dispute them, then please contact our welfare rights service or your local CAB office.

This video gives an overview of sanctions.


Voiceover: When you sign your claimant commitment at the jobcentre you agree to do certain things , in return for your benefits.

You may agree to apply for jobs, carry out training, attend interviews and other work related activities. And you will be expected to spend an agreed number of hours every day doing this.

The jobcentre will help and advise but they will also check that you are keeping your side of the bargain. If you don’t, your benefits may be affected – this is called a sanction.

The most common reasons for having your benefits cut are

  • not turning up to a meeting at the Jobcentre;
  • not doing enough to look for work; and
  • not taking part in an employment or training scheme.

Work Coach: “We have been over the terms in your Claimant Commitment several times and you did say you understood them. You signed the agreement which you knew could affect your benefits. You know you have broken the rules and you must realise that this will probably mean a cut in the money you receive. I am a work coach and I don’t decide how much you will lose or for how long. But I will pass the information on to somebody who will make those decisions and you will get a letter telling you what is happening.

Claimant: I don’t think that’s fair. I haven’t been well and some of the jobs you wanted me to apply for were too far away and I wouldn’t have got them anyway.

Work Coach: Once you have received your letter telling you what’s happening, if you still disagree you can ask us to take another look.

Voiceover: If you think the sanction – the cut in your benefits is wrong and a mistake has been made then you can ask the Jobcentre to look at their decision again.

If they don’t change their decision you can appeal.

There are many organisations who can help you challenge a cut in your benefits or put together an appeal. A full list is displayed at the end of this video.

Your benefits will still be reduced until a final decision is made. This can take some time.

If your appeal is successful you will receive all your benefits back.

Claimant: How long am I going to get sanctioned for?.

Work Coach: I don’t make that decision but since it‘s the first time it probably won’t be longer than a few weeks. If you are sanctioned you have to be very careful in the future. Every time you fail to do what is agreed in your Claimant Commitment the penalty will be bigger.

Claimant: What’s the worst?

Work Coach: If you break the rules three times you could lose your benefits for years rather than weeks.

Voiceover: So it’s very important to avoid sanctions. Remember if you consistently fail to carry out your side of the agreement you can lose your benefits for up to three years.

If your benefits are cut for any length of time there are places you can turn to for help.

Staff at the Jobcentre will help you apply for a hardship payment if you don’t have enough money to live on. This is a reduced level of benefit. Not everyone is eligible and it takes time to get a decision so you should start the process as soon as you think you might face a sanction.

If you need help with food for yourself or your family or you want to find out if you are eligible for a crisis grant, one of the agencies listed at the end of this video will be able to help.

You can avoid further sanctions by keeping to everything you agreed to do in your claimant commitment.

If you have a good reason for failing to do that let your work coach know right away. Give them as much information as you can. Your benefits will not be cut if you have a genuine reason such as illness or a death in the family.

But normally, to avoid having your benefits cut you must always do what you agreed to do in your Claimant Commitment.