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Check you've been given the right sanction

This advice applies to Scotland

If you've been sanctioned, you should check that you've been given the right level of sanction and have been sanctioned for the right amount of time.

Getting a sanction means your Universal Credit payment will be temporarily reduced.

You can ask the DWP to rethink their decision if you think they haven’t given you the right sanction. This is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’. 

If you don’t think you should have been sanctioned at all, there may be arguments you can use to get the decision changed. For example, if you had a good reason for not carrying out your work-related activity.

Information you need

Details about your sanction should be in your ‘sanction notification’. This will be in a letter or, if you use the digital service, posted on your Universal Credit online account. You should be told:

  • why you’ve received a sanction
  • the level of sanction you’ve been given
  • how long the sanction will last
  • how much money will be taken away from your Universal Credit payment
  • the date the sanction decision was made

You need this information to check if you’ve been sanctioned correctly. If you’ve misplaced it, contact the Universal Credit Helpline and ask them to give you a copy. As you work through these checks, you might want to make notes in case you want to appeal the sanction at the end.

Universal Credit Helpline
Telephone: 0345 600 0723
Textphone: 0345 600 0743
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls to this number can cost up to 9p a minute from a landline, or between 8p and 40p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay) - you can call and ask them to call you back.

Get help

It can be complicated to work out whether or not you've been given the right sanction.

If you'd like some help with this, or with understanding the details in your sanction letter, you can contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

There are different levels of sanctions depending on which work-related activity (or ‘conditionality’) group you’re in. You can find out what group you’re in by looking at your claimant commitment or the sanction notification from the DWP. Or you can check with your local Jobcentre.

You can’t get sanctioned if you’re in the ‘no work-related requirements group’.

Work-focused interview only group

You’ll get a lowest level sanction if you’re in the ‘work-focused interview only group’. You’ll get this sanction for failing, without good reason, to attend a work focused interview at the Jobcentre.

Work preparation only group

You’ll get a low level sanction if you’re in the ‘work preparation only group’ and you don’t do tasks within the following parts of your claimant commitment:

  • the work-focused interview at the Jobcentre
  • the work preparation requirement, such as refusing to attend a training scheme
  • activities specifically listed under the work search requirement, such as not applying for a particular job vacancy  
  • cooperate with the Jobcentre checks on whether you’re meeting your work-related requirements, such as failing to sign on or to report work-related changes such as losing pay

If you’re in the ‘all work-related requirements group’, you’ll get a low level sanction, medium level sanction or a higher level sanction.

You’ll get a low level sanction if you don’t do tasks within the following parts of your claimant commitment:

  • the work-focused interview at the Jobcentre
  • the work preparation requirement, such as refusing to attend a training scheme
  • activities specifically listed under the work search requirement, such as not applying for a particular job vacancy
  • cooperate with the Jobcentre checks on whether you’re meeting your work-related requirements, such as failing to sign on or to report work-related changes such as losing pay

You’ll get a medium level sanction if you fail to:

  • take all reasonable action to get paid work, more paid work or better paid work. This is something you have to do as part of the work search requirement, for example, looking for jobs online
  • meet the work availability requirement. This requirement normally means you have to be able and willing to do paid work immediately

A higher level sanction is a sanction for certain types of failures to do with work. For example, you may get a higher level sanction for:

  • failing to take part in the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme
  • failing to apply for a paid job
  • failing to take up an offer of paid work
  • stopping work or losing pay either voluntarily or due to your failure

Check 2 - Have you been sanctioned for the right length of time?

How long you should be sanctioned for depends on the level of sanction you’ve been given, your age and whether you’ve had any sanctions before.

No sanction can last for more than 1095 days. If the DWP sanctions you two or more times, the sanctions normally run back to back. However, they can't run for a total of more than 1095 days.

Lowest level sanction periods

You’ll be sanctioned from the date you failed to meet the work-related activity until you comply with the work-related activity again or until you no longer need to comply. You might no longer need to comply if your Universal Credit claim ends or you change work-related conditionality group.

Example

The DWP sanctions you for failing to attend a work-focused interview on 25 June. You come to your next interview on 26 July. There are 31 days from 25 June to the day before 26 July, so the length of your minimum sanction period is 31 days.

Example

You fail to go to a work-focused interview on 25 June. You stop having to meet the work-related requirements on 1 July because you’re pregnant and due to give birth within eleven weeks. There are 6 days from 25 June to the day before 1 July, so the length of your minimum sanction period is 6 days.

Low level sanction periods

For low level sanctions, you’ll be sanctioned from the date you failed to meet the work-related activity until you comply with the work-related activity again or until you no longer need to comply, plus an extra 7,14 or 28 day fixed period. You might no longer need to comply with the work-related activity if your Universal Credit claim ends or you change work-related conditionality group.

If you’ve had a low level sanction before

Your sanction period will include a 14 day fixed period if you’ve had a low level sanction before and:

  • The DWP gave you a previous low level sanction for a failure that took place in the 364 days before your current failure, although sanctionable failures in the 13 days before this failure are disregarded

  • the previous sanction included the extra seven day fixed period

Your sanction period will include a 28 day fixed period if you’ve had a low level sanction before and:

  • The DWP gave you a low level sanction for a failure that took place in the 364 days before your current, although sanctionable failures in the 13 days before this failure are disregarded
  • the sanction included an extra 14 day fixed period

The fixed period always lasts seven days if you're 16 or 17 years old on the date of the failure you were sanctioned for, and if you’ve had a low level sanction before.

Medium level sanction periods

If you're 18 or over

If you're 18 or over, a medium level sanction is normally 28 days long. You must be 18 or over on the date of the failure that led to the sanction.

However, a medium level sanction is 91 days long if you've already had a medium level sanction for failure that took place in the 364 days before your current failure, although sanctionable failures in the 13 days before this failure are disregarded.

If you're 16 or 17

If you're 16 or 17, a medium level sanction is normally 7 days long. You must be 16 or 17 on the date of the failure that led to the sanction.

However, a medium level sanction is 14 days long if you've already had a medium level sanction for failure that took place in the 364 days before your current failure, although sanctionable failures in the 13 days before this failure are disregarded.

Higher level sanction periods

If you’re 18 or over

If you're 18 or over, a higher level sanction is normally 91 days long. You must be 18 or over on the date of the failure that led to the sanction.

However, a higher level sanction is 182 days long if you’ve already had a 91 day higher level sanction for failure that took place in the 364 days before your current failure, although sanctionable failures in the 13 days before this failure are disregarded.

A higher level sanction is 1095 days long if you’ve already had a 182 day or 1095 day higher level sanction for failure that took place in the 364 days before your current failure, although sanctionable failures in the 13 days before this failure are disregarded.

If you’re 16 or 17

If you’re 16 or 17, a higher level sanction is normally 14 days long. You must be 16 or 17 on the date of the failure that leads to the sanction.

However, a higher level sanction is 28 days long if you’ve already had a 14 day or 28 day higher level sanction for failure that took place in the 364 days before your current failure, although sanctionable failures in the 13 days before this failure are disregarded.

If you stop work or accept lower pay before you claim Universal Credit

You can sometimes get a higher level sanction if you did one of the following before you claimed Universal Credit:

  • you refused a job offer voluntarily without good reason
  • you stopped paid work voluntarily without good reason or because of misconduct
  • you accepted lower wages voluntarily without good reason

If you were doing paid work before claiming Universal Credit that was only due to last for a limited time and the DWP gave you a higher level sanction because you stopped this work or accepted lower pay, a special sanction period applies. The sanction period can’t go beyond the date that your employment was due to stop. If you’re in this situation, follow the steps below to work out how long your sanction period should be.

Step 1

What are the number of days from the day after the date you stopped work or accepted lower pay to the day before your work was due to end?

Step 2

What are the number of days from the day after the date you stopped work or accepted lower pay to the day before the date you submitted your Universal Credit claim?

Step 3

Deduct the number of days you worked out in step two from the number of days you worked out in step one.

Step 4

The higher level sanction lasts for the shorter of the following two periods:

  • the period you calculated in step three
  • the usual length of a higher level sanction

Example

Step 1: Your short-term work was due to end on 6th July, but you voluntarily quit on 6th June. The number of days between these two dates is 29.

Step 2: You made your Universal Credit claim on 20th June. The number of days between when you quit your job and made your claim is 13.

Step 3: 29 - 13 = 16

Step 4: The shorter of the periods out of 16 (Step 3) and 91 (the usual length of a higher level sanction) is 16. So your sanction will last for 16 days. 

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