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If you can't keep to your jobseeker's agreement

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Tell your local Jobs and Benefits Office (JBO) quickly if you can't keep to your jobseeker's agreement. If you don't, your Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) might be reduced or stopped - this is called a sanction.

You'll need to do this even for temporary problems like being ill or delays on public transport.

Keep evidence if you can - it might be useful later if you need to prove what happened. For example, keep an email from the school if you were called to an urgent meeting about your child.

If you can't go to an interview or training, contact the person you were supposed to meet. Explain you can't go and say why.

When you can change your jobseeker's agreement

You can ask to change any part of your jobseeker's agreement, but you’ll need your personal adviser to agree to it. This is the person you meet when you sign on.

You can ask for changes because the agreement wasn’t realistic from the start or because of a change in your situation. For example:

  • you didn’t understand what your agreement included when you signed it and it’s hard for you to keep to
  • there aren’t many vacancies in your area so you want to apply for fewer jobs
  • your health has got worse so you can’t do as many types of work
  • you’re spending longer caring for someone so need to change the times you can work

How to change your jobseeker's agreement

Ask as soon as possible, because you’ll need to keep to your current jobseeker's agreement until your personal adviser has agreed to change it.

Talk to your personal adviser next time you sign on, unless you've been told to request changes through an online account. If you can't wait until the next time you sign on, call your local JBO to ask for an appointment.

You have to put your request in writing as well as discussing it, so write a letter to your personal adviser and take it with you. It should say:

  • why you can’t meet your agreement
  • what you’d like it to be changed to
  • how long the change will last

Take some proof, for example a letter from your doctor to show your health has got worse and you can’t job hunt for as long as before.

Your personal adviser is more likely to agree if you say how changing your agreement will make it easier to get a job. For example, if you have depression you could explain that reducing the hours you job hunt will help your concentration - so you’ll be able to write better applications.

If your personal adviser agrees with the change, they’ll update the jobseeker's agreement and you’ll both sign it while you’re together.

Report changes to the Department for Communities (DfC)

If your situation’s changed, you might also need to report this in writing to the DfC because it could affect the amount of JSA you get. You have to do this separately from asking your personal adviser about changing your jobseeker's agreement. 

You can check if you need to report a change in writing.

If your personal adviser doesn't agree with changing your jobseeker's agreement

You can ask your personal adviser to refer your request a decision-maker to look at, but you'll need to keep to your current agreement until they decide. If you're unhappy with their decision you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

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