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Check you’re in the right Universal Credit work-related activity group

This advice applies to England

You might need to look for work or prepare for work as part of getting Universal Credit. What your work coach asks you to do depends on which ‘work-related activity group’ (sometimes called a ‘conditionality group’) you’re in. If you’re in the wrong group, you can try to get it changed.

If you’re not in the right group, find out how you can change what work-related activity you’re asked to do.

Look in your Universal Credit online account to find out which work-related activity group you’re in, as well as what tasks you need to do.

If you don't have an online account, ask your work coach which work-related activity group you’re in.

There are 4 work-related activity groups:

Group What you'll need to do

No work-related requirements group

You don’t have to do anything to prepare or look for work

Work-focused interview group

You have to go to regular meetings with your work coach 

Work preparation group

You have to meet your work coach regularly and also prepare for work. This includes things like writing a CV and going on training or work experience

All work-related activity group

You have to do all you can to find a job or earn more. This includes looking for jobs, applying for jobs and going to interviews

You’ll probably be put in the ‘all work-related activity group’ if you’re able to work, unless you meet any of these exceptions.

If more than one exception applies to you, you should be in the group with the lowest requirements. For example, if you fit into both the ‘work preparation group’ and the ‘work-focused interview group’, you should be in the ‘work-focused interview group’, as that group requires less activity.

You’re disabled or you have a long-term illness

Tell your work coach if your sickness or disability reduces what you can do to work or look for work. You’ll usually need to fill in a form and you might need to go to a medical assessment.

Your work-related activity group will depend on how the DWP thinks your sickness or disability affects you:

  • if they decide you have ‘limited capability for work and work-related activity’ (LCWRA) you’ll be in the ‘no work-related requirements group’
  • if they decide you have ‘limited capability for work’ (LCW) you’ll be in the ‘work preparation group’

If the DWP decide you don’t have LCW or LCWRA you’ll be in the ‘all work-related activity group’. The Jobcentre should still take your sickness or disability into account when considering what type of work you need to apply for.

You won’t need to fill in the form or have an assessment if you’ve already been assessed as having LCW or LCWRA and you either:

  • get contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • get Incapacity Credits
  • got income-related Employment and Support Allowance before you claimed Universal Credit

Find out how to show that you have limited capability for work if you’re sick or disabled.

You're caring for a severely disabled person

If you care for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week, you’ll be in the ‘no work-related activity group’ if one of these applies:

  • you’re entitled to or getting Carer’s Allowance
  • you can’t get Carer’s Allowance, but only because your earnings are too high, and the DWP thinks it would be unreasonable for you to look for work and be available for work

The person you care for must be getting one of these benefits:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • the standard or enhanced rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
  • the highest or middle rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance paid with a war disablement pension or industrial injuries benefits
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

You aren’t classed as having caring responsibilities if you earn money from them.

If you don’t meet these conditions, you could be placed in the ‘all work-related activity group’. Your work coach should still consider your care responsibilities when setting your work activity. For example, if you spend 20 hours a week caring for someone, you shouldn’t have to go to job interviews in those hours.

You’re responsible for a child

If you’re the main carer for a child, your work-related activity group depends on how old your child is.

If you’re living with your partner you’ll need to nominate which of you is the main carer. You usually do this at your first interview at the Jobcentre.

The same rules apply if you’ve adopted a child or are looking after the child for a friend or relative. There are some differences in the first 12 months you’re looking after them.

Your child’s age Your work group
Under 1 No work-related requirements group
1 Work-focused interview group
2 Work preparation group
3 or above All work-related activity group

Your work-related activity should still fit in with looking after your child.

While your child is under 13 your work coach has to make sure your work activity fits around school or nursery hours. This includes the time it takes you to travel there and back.

Your work coach should adjust your work-related activity if your child has extra care needs - for example if they have a mental health condition. They should do this even if your child is over 13.

Tell your work coach if you’re looking after your child but they normally live with an ex-partner. Your work-related activity group won’t change, but your work-related activity should still take your child into account while you’re looking after them.

If you’re responsible for the child of a friend or relative

If the child is over 2, you’ll stay in the ‘work-focused interview group’ if you’ve become responsible for them in the past 12 months.

To meet this exception you’ll need to meet all of these conditions:

  • you're not the child's parent or step-parent
  • you're caring for the child because they have no parents or their parents can't care for them
  • if you don't care for them, it's likely that the local authority will look after them instead because of concerns about their welfare
  • the child is under 16

After 12 months, you’ll be in the same work-related activity group as if they were your own child.

If you adopted a child less than 12 months ago

You'll be in the ‘no work-related activity group’ for 12 months, no matter how old the child is.

Usually the 12 months starts when when the child is placed with you. You can start your 12 months up to 14 days before then if you tell the Jobcentre you need time to prepare for the adoption. You can’t ask for this if you're a close relative of the child you've adopted.

After 12 months, you’ll be in the same work-related activity group as if the child wasn’t adopted.

You’re pregnant or you’ve given birth in the past 15 weeks

If you’re at least 28 weeks pregnant, you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’.

If you’re less than 28 weeks pregnant, you might still need to look for work. If you can’t manage this, explain why to your work coach.

Tell the DWP if working or looking for work could be a risk to your health or your baby’s health. They’ll class you as having either:

  • ‘limited capability for work’ - this will put you in the ‘work preparation group’
  • ‘limited capability for work-related activity’ - this will put you in the ‘no work-related activity group’ and increase your Universal Credit payments

You might need to show some evidence of the risk - for example a letter from your doctor. Find out more about having limited capability for work.

If you’ve recently given birth

If it’s less than 15 weeks since you gave birth, you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’.

If it’s been 15 weeks or more since you gave birth, and you’re not the child’s main carer, you could be expected to look for work. If you can’t manage this, explain your reasons to your work coach.

You’ve reached Pension Credit age

You should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’ if you’ve reached Pension Credit age.

You’ll usually be better off claiming Pension Credit instead - check if you can get Pension Credit.

You or your partner are working or self-employed

If you’re self-employed you’ll be in the ‘no work-related activity group’ if either:

If you have an employer, you’ll be in the ‘no work-related activity group’ if you earn above your ‘earnings threshold’.

Work out your earnings threshold

Your earnings threshold is the weekly hours you’re expected to work multiplied by your minimum wage.

If your earnings vary they’re calculated as an average of the past 3 months.

For your earnings threshold, your weekly hours depend on what work-related activity group you would be in if you weren't working:

Your work group Hours
Work-focused interview group 16
Work preparation group 16
All work-related activity group Set in your claimant commitment - usually 35

If you live with your partner

Your earnings thresholds will be added together to create one joint threshold.

If your combined earnings are less than your joint threshold, one or both of you will need to look for more work. In this situation, if one of you is earning more than their individual threshold, that person doesn’t have to look for more work.

If your combined earnings are more than the joint threshold, neither of you has to look for work even if one of you earns below their individual threshold.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help with your earnings threshold.

If you earn below your earnings threshold

You’ll be in the ‘all work-related activity’ group. This usually means you’ll have to find enough work to increase your earnings above your earnings threshold.

You won’t have to look for more work if either:

  • you earn over £677 a month
  • you live with your partner and your combined earnings are over £1,083 a month

This is known as the ‘administrative earnings threshold’.

You're in full-time education

In term time and most holidays you'll be in the ‘no work-related requirements group’ if you’re either:

  • at university or college and you get a student loan, grant or bursary
  • aged 21 or under and at school or college with no support from your parents

No support from your parents means you can’t live with them for one of these reasons: 

  • you’re not regularly in contact with them - this is sometimes called being ‘estranged’ 
  • they died
  • your physical or mental health would be at risk 
  • they can’t support you financially - for example, because they have a physical or mental condition
  • they’re in prison
  • they’re not allowed to enter Great Britain

In the summer holiday you might need to look for work.

Tell your work coach as quickly as possible if you’re in the wrong work-related activity group. Explain which exceptions apply and show them any evidence you can - for example a letter from your doctor if you’re sick, or the birth certificate for a child you care for.

If your work coach won’t change your work-related activity group, you can complain to the DWP.

If you get a sanction even though you’ve explained your situation to your work coach, you can challenge the decision with a mandatory reconsideration.


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