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Getting a job or pay increase while on Universal Credit

This advice applies to England

You'll need to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as soon as possible if you get a new job or a pay increase - you might get the wrong amount of benefit if you don't.

Your claimant commitment will tell you which 'work-related requirements' you need to do. These are the tasks you'll need to complete to get Universal Credit. You'll be put in a 'work-related activity group' - you'll have different levels of work you'll have to do in each group.

You can use our advice to check if you're in the right Universal Credit work-related activity group. You'll also be able to find out what you need to do in each group.

Accepting a job offer or pay increase

You should contact the DWP straight away to:

  • tell them who your employer is, when the job will start and when your pay will increase
  • see if you can apply for childcare costs - your Universal Credit can include an amount if you pay for formal childcare, like a registered childminder or nursery
  • book an appointment with your work coach to review your claimant commitment

You can report changes in your circumstances and contact your work coach by:

  • using your Universal Credit online account if you have one
  • calling the helpline

Universal Credit helpline (live service)
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

How a pay increase affects your Universal Credit

If you get a pay increase, the amount of Universal Credit you get usually goes down. For every £1 you or your partner earn, 63p will be counted as income when your Universal Credit is calculated.

Your earnings are what you get from your employer each month after tax, National Insurance and pension contributions are taken off.

If you're self-employed, there are rules about how your earnings are calculated.

If you're responsible for a child, or you or your partner have limited capability for work, you'll get a work allowance. This is how much money you can earn without it affecting your Universal Credit payment. You can find out more about work allowances on GOV.UK.

If you get help from Universal Credit towards your mortgage interest payments, you'll lose that money if you start work.

You can read more about how your earnings from work affect your Universal Credit. If you'd like help to work out whether you'd be financially better off taking a job or increased pay, you can contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Refusing a job offer or pay increase

The DWP can't make you take a new job or pay increase, but you'll need to have a good reason for doing this. For example, you might have an emergency at home or you might be in hospital. If you don't have a good reason they'll probably 'sanction' you, which means having your Universal Credit temporarily reduced.

Your claimant commitment says you don't have to get a job

Your Universal Credit won't be affected if you refuse to take up a job offer.

If you refuse a pay increase, you won't get sanctioned but the DWP might treat you as having that income. It's up to the DWP to decide if they'll include it when they work out how much Universal Credit you'll get.

Your claimant commitment says you have to get a job

You have agreed with your work coach what type of work you'd look for, including hours and pay. If you don't accept an offer that matches (or nearly matches) what you agreed, you'll probably be sanctioned.

If the job offer isn't appropriate for you and your circumstances

If you think you've got a good reason for refusing a job offer, you need to talk to your work coach about it straight away. There's no definition of what counts as a good reason, but the DWP should be reasonable and take into account your circumstances and views.

Examples of what might be taken into account when deciding if something's a good reason include:

  • it would take over 90 minutes to get to work (you're usually expected to travel up to 90 minutes to work)
  • costs for travel to work and childcare would be too high to make it worthwhile
  • the job would have a negative impact on your physical or mental health
  • the job would have a negative impact on your caring responsibilities
  • you have a religious or ethical objection to the type of work

Although your reasons will be taken into account, the DWP will consider all your personal circumstances in making a decision on whether or not to sanction you for refusing an offer. One good reason in itself, such as ill health, might not be enough to stop you being sanctioned.

If the job offer is for fewer hours, lower pay or a different type of job than you agreed in your claimant commitment, you'll still be expected to take it. These won't be considered good reasons for refusing a job offer, unless you can argue that your travel or childcare costs will be too high to make a lower paid job worthwhile. If you don't accept the job offer, you're likely to be sanctioned.

If the job is more hours than you've agreed, your work coach might still encourage you to take it. If you don't want to, explain why to your work coach and remind them why you only agreed to limited hours in the first place, eg because of your health or childcare commitments. If the DWP decide to sanction you for refusing a job offer in these circumstances, you might be able to challenge the sanction.

Changing your claimant commitment

Your personal circumstances might have changed since your claimant commitment was last discussed. If this has an impact on the type or hours of work you could do, you might be able to get your claimant commitment changed. For example, if your child has started school you might want to reduce the hours you could work.

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