Skip to content Skip to footer

Your Commitment: what work-related activity group you should be in

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If you want to speak to someone about changes to benefits, you can phone the independent welfare changes helpline for free on 0808 802 0020 or contact your local Citizens Advice.

As part of your Universal Credit ‘Commitment’, you’ll be placed into a ‘work-related activity group’ (sometimes called ‘conditionality group’). Each group contains types of activities that you’ll have to do to prepare for work or look for a job. In some cases, you might not have to do any activities.

You can’t choose what group you’re in, but don‘t be afraid to question your work coach if you think they’re putting you into the wrong group. This is really important, because if you get put into the wrong group and struggle with the activities, you could end up getting sanctioned (ie have some of your Universal Credit payment reduced temporarily).

Once you’ve been placed within a group, the specific activities you could do within that group are negotiable. For example, you might want to limit the hours you look for work because you have to pick your children up from school at 3pm every day.

The 4 work-related activity groups are:

  • ‘no work-related requirements group’ - you don’t have to do any activities to prepare or look for work
  • ‘work-focused interview group’ - you have to go to regular interviews with your work coach at the Jobcentre to get support with preparing for work in the future. You won’t have to look for work, be available for work or prepare for work now
  • ‘work preparation group’ - you have to do activities to prepare for work, eg attend training, do some work experience, write a CV, go to interviews with your work coach at the Jobcentre to help you find or stay in work. You won't have to actually search for work or be available for work
  • ‘all work-related requirements group’ - you have to do all you can to find a job or a higher paid job. This includes looking for jobs, applying for jobs, going to interviews, etc. You have to be ready and available to take up work straight away

What group you’re in can change over time as your personal circumstances change. You’ll regularly review this with your work coach.

What group for your personal circumstances?

If none of the circumstances below apply to you and you’re unemployed and able to work, you’ll probably be placed in the ‘all work-related requirements group’. If you're in this group, you may have to do all you can to find work. If you’re already doing some work, you could still be put in this group - you’ll be expected to do what you can to increase your hours and pay. If you think this group wouldn’t be right for you, explain your reasons to your work coach and ask if you can be put into another group.

If more than one circumstance listed below applies to you, you should get put in the group with the lowest requirements. For example, if your circumstances mean you could be in either the ‘work preparation group’ or the ‘work-focused interview group’, you should go into the ‘work-focused interview group’ because that group has lower requirements, ie fewer activities to do.

If you're sick or disabled

You should be in the ‘work preparation group’ if you have an illness or disability that limits how much you can work, but you could still do some things to prepare for work, eg attend training. This is called having ‘limited capability for work’. This means you might have to carry out the following types of activities:

  • preparing for work, eg taking part in training or work experience - you won’t have to search for work or be available for work
  • going to one or more interviews with your work coach at the Jobcentre to help you find or stay in work

You should be in the ‘no work-related requirements group’ if you have an illness or disability that limits how much you can work and you’ll struggle to do any activities to prepare or look for work. This is called having ‘limited capability for work and work-related activity’. This means you won’t have to do any work-related activities - you won’t be expected to prepare for work, look for work or get a job.

If you have an illness or disability but it doesn’t limit your ability to look for work or get a job, you could be placed in the ‘all work-related activity group’. Make sure you tell your work coach what you can manage and what’s realistic and achievable for you.

If you’re responsible for a child (not a foster parent or kinship carer of a looked after child)

Responsible for a child under 1

If you’re responsible for a child under 1 you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’. This means you won’t have to do any work-related activities - you won’t be expected to prepare for work, look for work or get a job.

If you’re living with a partner you have to nominate a main carer. You usually do this at your first Commitment interview at the Jobcentre. The other member of the couple may be put in a different work-related group.

Responsible for a child aged 1

If you’re responsible for a child aged 1, you should be in the ‘work-focused interview group’. This means you'll have to go to one or more work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre to help you plan for finding work in the future or to stay in work. You won't have to prepare for work, look for work, or be available for work.

If you’re living with a partner, you have to nominate a main carer. You usually do this at your first Commitment interview at the Jobcentre. The other member of the couple may be put in a different work-related group.

Responsible for a child aged 2

If you’re responsible for a child aged 2, you should be in the ‘work preparation group’. This means you might have to carry out the following types of activities:

  • preparing for work, eg taking part in training or work experience. You won’t have to search for work or be available for work
  • taking part in one or more work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre to help you find or stay in work

If you’re living with a partner, you have to nominate a main carer. You usually do this at your first Commitment interview at the Jobcentre. The other member of the couple may be put in a different work-related group.

Responsible for a child aged 3 to 12 

If you’re responsible for a child aged 3 or over, you’ll probably be in the ‘all work-related requirements group’, but you can ask to limit the hours you look for work to fit in with your child's school hours. Your work coach should consider your requests and be reasonable.

Responsible for a child 13 or over

If you're responsible for a child 13 or over, you'll probably be in the 'all work-related requirements group'. Remember to talk to your work coach about what activities are realistic for you. For example, think about the school holidays. Your work coach should consider your requests and be reasonable.

If you’re a foster parent or kinship carer of a looked after child

Child under 1

If the child you look after is under 1, you'll be in the ‘no work-related requirements group’. This means you won’t have to do any work-related activities - you won’t be expected to prepare for work, look for work or get a job.

If you and your partner both look after the child, you’ll have to nominate a main carer and tell the Jobcentre. You usually do this at your first Commitment interview. The other member of the couple may be put in a different work-related group.

Child between 1 and 15

If the child you look after is aged between 1 and 15, you should be in the ‘work-focused interview only group’. This means you'll have to go to one or more work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre to help you find or stay in work. You won't have to look for work, be available for work or prepare for work.

If you and your partner both look after the child, only one of you can be responsible for the child (unless they have care needs) for the purposes of being placed in the ‘work focused interview group’. You’ll have to choose a main carer and tell the Jobcentre. You usually do this at your first Commitment interview. The other member of the couple may be in a different work-related group.

Child or young person has care needs

If a child or young person you’re looking after has care needs you should be in the ‘work-focused interview only group’. This means you'll have to go to one or more work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre to help you plan for finding work in the future or to stay in work. You won't have to prepare for work, look for work, or be available for work. If you’re living with a partner and you both care for the child, you should both be placed into this group.

The Jobcentre must think the child or young person's care needs would make it unreasonable for you to prepare for work, look for work or be available to work.

You don’t have foster children with you right now

If you don’t currently have foster children with you but you were fostering within the last 8 weeks and intend to foster again soon, you may be placed in the ‘work-focused interview only group’. This means you'll have to go to one or more work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre to help you plan for finding work in the future or to stay in work. You won't have to prepare for work, look for work, or be available for work.

If you're responsible for the child of a friend or family member

You’ll be in the ‘work-focused interview only group’ if you’ve become responsible for the child of a friend or family member in the last 12 months.

You'll have to meet the work-focused interview requirement, eg go to one or more work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre to help you find or stay in work. You won't have to meet any other work-related requirements. This means you won't have to look for work, be available for work or prepare for work.

To be placed in this group you must meet all the following conditions:

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

If you're part of a couple and one of you meets these conditions, you’ll need to decide together which one of you will be responsible for the child and tell the Jobcentre. This person will be placed in the ‘work-focused interview only group’. The other member of the couple may be put in a different work-related group.

If it’s more than 12 months since you became responsible for the child, you could be expected to look for work. If you feel this wouldn’t be manageable for you, explain your reasons to your work coach. If you are responsible for a child under 5, you should be placed in a group with lower expectations.

If you adopted a child less than 12 months ago

If you've adopted a child and it’s 12 months or less since your child was placed with you, you'll be in the ‘no work-related requirements group’. This means you won’t have to do any work-related activities - you won’t be expected to prepare for work, look for work or get a job. This will be the case for the first 12 months that the child is placed with you.

If you need time to help you prepare for the adoption, you can ask the Jobcentre to put you in the ‘no work-related requirements group’ in the 14 days before you expect the child to be placed with you, rather than from the date of the placement. This means you won’t have to do any work-related activity for 12 months from the 14 days before you expect the child to be placed with you. These rules won't apply if you're a close relative of the child you've adopted.

If it’s been more than 12 months since your child was placed with you, you could be expected to look for work. If you feel this wouldn’t be manageable for you, explain your reasons to your work coach.

If you're a carer of a severely disabled person

If you care for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week, and the person you care for gets disability benefits, you may be in the ‘no work-related activity group’. If you're in this group, you won't have to do anything to prepare for work or look for a job. To be in this group, one of the following must apply:

  • you’re getting carer’s allowance or are entitled to it
  • you’re not eligible for carer’s allowance but only because your earnings are too high
  • not entitled to carer’s allowance but you’re caring for one or more severely disabled people, for at least 35 hours a week, and the Jobcentre 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 the following benefits:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • the highest or middle rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance paid with a War Disablement Pension or with Industrial Injuries benefits
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • the standard or enhanced rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment

You don't count as having caring responsibilities for a disabled person if you earn money from your caring responsibilities.

If you don’t meet the conditions for being a carer of a disabled person, you could be placed in the ‘all work-related requirements group’. Make sure you talk to your work coach about your caring responsibilities and what would be realistic and achievable for you. For example, if you spend 10 hours a week caring for an ill parent, you could ask your work coach if you could spend fewer hours job hunting or only look for part-time work. Your work coach should consider your requests and be reasonable.

If you're pregnant

If you’re 28 weeks or more pregnant, you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’. If you're in this group, you won't have to do anything to prepare for work or look for a job.

If you’re less than 28 weeks pregnant, you could be expected to look for work. If you feel this wouldn’t be manageable for you, explain your reasons to your work coach.

If you've given birth recently

If you’ve recently given birth, and it’s less than 15 weeks after the birth, you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’. If you're in this group, you won't have to do anything to prepare for work or look for a job.

If it’s been more than 15 weeks since the birth, and you’re not the main carer of your child, you could be expected to look for work. If you feel this wouldn’t be manageable for you, explain your reasons to your work coach. Your work coach should consider your requests and be reasonable. If you’re responsible for a child under 1 you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’.

If you're Pension Credit age

If you’ve reached Pension Credit age you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’. If you're in this group, you won't have to do anything to prepare for work or look for a job.

If you or your partner are working and your earnings are high enough

If you or your partner are working and your earnings are at or above a certain amount called the ‘earnings threshold’ you should be in the ‘no work-related activity group’. If you're in this group, you won't have to do anything to find more work or better paid work.

If you’re claiming as a couple, you and your partner each have an earnings threshold. You need to add these together to work out your joint earnings threshold. If your total earnings are at least as high as your joint earnings threshold, you should both be in the ‘no work related activity group'.

Your earnings threshold is the hours you’re expected to work multiplied by the National Minimum Wage which applies to you.

The number of hours you’re expected to work is decided by which work-related activity group you’d be in if you weren’t working. If you’re not sure, check the sections above or ask your work coach.

If you would be in the ‘work preparation group’ or ‘work focused interview only group’, you’ll be expected to work 16 hours.

If you would be in the ‘no work-related activity group' you wouldn’t be expected to work at all.

If you would be in the ‘all-work-related activity group’ you’d usually be expected to work 35 hours per week. There are some exceptions to this. For example, you’d be expected to work fewer hours if you had agreed to do some voluntary work, or an apprenticeship or are a temporary carer.

What work-related activity group you’d normally be in depends on your circumstances - see list on this page to see which group would apply to you.

If you're self-employed people with low income

If you’re self-employed and you're assumed to be earning the ‘minimum income floor’, you should be in the ‘no work-related requirements group’.

If you're in full-time education

If you're in education and can get Universal Credit, you'll be in the ‘no work-related requirements group’. If you're in this group, you won't have to do anything to prepare for work or look for a job. To be in this group, the following have to apply:

Either:

  • you’re on a full-time course of study or training and
  • you’re not in advanced education, eg studying for a postgraduate degree or a comparable qualification, a first degree or a comparable qualification, a diploma of higher education, a higher national diploma, any course above advanced GNVQ or its equivalent, any course above A level standard and
  • you have no parental support - eg you don’t have a parent, or you can’t live with your parents because you’re estranged, or your parent can’t support you because they’re in prison or have a physical or mental impairment and
  • you’re under 21 or have reached this age while you were on your course

Or:

  • you’re a student with student income (eg a grant or loan) that is being taken into account in calculating your Universal Credit entitlement

Checks on whether you’re doing all your activities

The Jobcentre might carry out checks to see that you're doing all the activities you’re supposed to. For example, you might have to go to the Jobcentre for an interview or give them information or evidence about what you’ve been doing. You must co-operate with any checks that are made or you could get sanctioned. This means your Universal Credit payment will be cut for a certain period of time.

Did this advice help?