Universal credit claimant commitment

Most people claiming universal credit must accept work-related commitments and will have their universal credit reduced if they do not comply.

This content applies to England

Introduction

People claiming universal credit (UC) must accept the claimant commitment condition under which they are allocated to one of the groups listed below. The nature of their commitment is determined by the group they are in.[1]

No work-related requirements

A claimant in this group is not required to undertake any work-related activity in order to receive universal credit. Claimants in this group include those who:[2]

  • have limited capability for work and work-related activity

  • qualify for state pension credit

  • are pregnant and due to give birth within 11 weeks

  • have regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person, or

  • are the responsible carer for a child under the age of one

  • are students aged under 21 and without parental support, and have income from a student grant or loan (except for some post graduate courses) taken into account in the UC calculation

  • are entitled to universal credit as a member of a couple and receive a student grant or loan for a current course which is taken into account when the UC award is calculated

In addition, a claimant who is a victim of domestic violence is entitled to a 13 week exemption from work-related requirements.[3]

A claimant whose earnings are equal or exceed the earnings threshold is also exempt from work-related requirements.[4] Earnings threshold  relates to the amount they would earn at national minimum wage, working the same number of hours as set out in their claimant commitment.

Work-focused interview requirement

A claimant in this group must attend work-focused interviews to discuss their plans for getting back to work. They are not required to look for, or take up, work. 

A claimant will be allocated to this group if they are:[5]

  • the responsible carer for a child aged one (prior to 3 April 2017, the child could be aged between one and three)

  • a foster carer of a child aged one or over

  • a foster parent of a 'qualifying young person' with care needs 

For universal credit purposes, a 'qualifying young person' is a person aged between 16 and 19 in non-advanced education or approved training, and not in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance or universal credit.[6]

Work preparation requirement

Claimants will be in this group if they:[7]

  • have been assessed as having a limited capability for work, or

  • are responsible carer for a child aged two

Prior to 3 April 2017 the child could be aged three or four.

They are not required to look for or take up work, but are expected to take steps to prepare for a move into work, or for a move to better paid work. The steps could include attending work-focused interviews, participating in an employment programme, attending training courses or preparing a CV.

All work-related requirements

A claimant who does not fall into any of the above groups is allocated to the all work-related requirements group.[8] This includes the 'responsible carer' (including single parents) of a child aged three or over. Prior to 3 April 2017, the 'responsible carer' fell into this group once their child was aged five or over.

A claimant in this group is expected to look for and be available to take up work. A 'work search requirement' requires such a claimant to take 'all reasonable action' to obtain work. Action to find work includes carrying out searches for work, making applications, putting together an online profile to find work, and registering with an employment agency.

A working claimant allocated to this group is expected to look for an increase in hours or better paid work.

Sanctions

If a claimant does not comply with all the requirements attached to their claimant commitment, they incur in a sanction by way of a reduction of their universal credit.

There are four levels of sanction:

  • higher

  • medium

  • low

  • lowest

The level of sanction applicable to a claimant depends on the nature of their non-compliance, and the group they are in.[9]

In the event of sanctions the claimant can apply for a hardship payment.[10] With effect from 28 April 2014, the claimant can only get a hardship payment where the sanction is set at 100% of their benefit.[11]

Last updated: 18 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.13 Welfare Reform Act 2012.

  • [2]

    s.19 Welfare Reform Act 2012; reg 89 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376 as amended by reg 6(5) Social Security (Treatment of Postgraduate Master's Degree Loans and Special Support Loans) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 SI 2016/743 and reg 3(10) Universal Credit (Miscellaneous Amendments, Saving and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/65.

  • [3]

    reg 98 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [4]

    reg 90 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [5]

    s.20 Welfare Reform Act 2012 as amended wef 3 April 2017 by s.17 Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016; reg 91 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [6]

    reg 5 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [7]

    s.21 Welfare Reform Act 2012 as amended wef 3 April 2017 by s.17 Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016.

  • [8]

    s.22(1) Welfare Reform Act 2012.

  • [9]

    ss.101 to 105 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [10]

    ss.115 to 119 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [11]

    reg 2(12) Universal Credit and Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2014 SI 2014/597.