Telling it as it is

Universal Credit : In work, part time claimants sanctioned for taking holidays and …… for working!


Unlike Zac and Sarah, Helen is a real person.

A Lone Parent working hard and doing the right thing.

This is Helen’s Story!

 She also says: I had a phone call last week saying that there is a new rule coming in and that even though I am working 30hours a week I have to start going to the job centre weekly again to “help” me find a second job to get me off credits altogether  if I don’t attend these meetings I will be sanctioned and penalised again! I have lost around £300 per month since I got swapped over to UC already and just feel like the government just don’t care about the stress they are putting on working families

Figures published in Nov 2105 show that 144000 claimants are now signed onto Universal Credit. 32.5 % are in work, that’s some 45827 people who are at risk of being sanctioned for taking a holiday……..

That is if they can afford one. It took Helen two years to save up for her well deserved break

This is an article from RightsNet

Universal Credit (UC) is a very important policy development because it significantly broadens the reach of in-work conditionality.

Those affected include low paid and/or part-time workers who would not previously have had contact with Jobcentre Plus.

In-work conditionality means that those who are already working still have to comply with the 35 hour perweek job search requirement, ie, if a claimant works 20hours per week, they must attend Jobcentre Plus and provide evidence of 15 hours’ jobsearch.

In practice, this means looking for multiple jobs or increased hours from current employers.

Jobcentre Plus appointments are still mandatory, backed with sanctions for non-attendance.

Someone in work and receiving Tax Credits or Housing Benefit at the moment and therefore not subject to conditionality, would be able to go away on holiday without a second thought.  In fact they would expect, given their rights within employment law to holidays, that this is considered normal.”

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, from 1 April 2009, most workers have a statutory right to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday. Some workers may be entitled to more than the statutory amount of holiday. This depends on the worker’s contract. If the worker’s contract gives her/him less paid holiday than the statutory entitlement, the statutory entitlement applies. Even if the worker signs a contract which states that s/he is only entitled to, for example, three weeks’ paid holiday per year, this does not take away her/his statutory entitlement to 5.6 weeks’ paid leave from 1 April 2009.

EU Directive 2003/88 provides that the purpose of paid annual leave is not just a perk of employment, it is to enable a worker to enjoy rest, relaxation and leisure for the protection of health and safety, both for their own benefit, and potentially that of their colleagues. A 52 week per annum full-time jobsearch requirement would undermine this objective.

David Cameron said in a speech in 2010 that he was “backing those who work hard and do the right thing”

If this is the case then why are people like Helen being denied their statutory right as someone in work to take a holiday, indeed the government is not only denying her right to a holiday but sanctioning her from exercising that right.

In a freedom of Information request on this issue dated Nov 3rd 2015

The DWP stated:

“Thank you for your Freedom of Information request of 23 October 2015. 

You asked: 

I wish to ask what approach the DWP will take as and when a claimant on Universal Credit requests to take any kind of holiday.

There are provisions in the existing Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations in which a person may be treated as actively seeking employment but there appears to be no such provision in the Universal Credit Regulations.

How does DWP propose to deal with exactly the same issue under UC? What variations will
be allowed in conditionality, under what circumstances and for how long?

If someone is working but still subject to work conditionality, will the leave provision in their
contract of employment be taken as a basis for allowing time off? “

And this the DWP’s response:

“Under JSA rules, a claimant can go away within the UK for up to two weeks but cannot usually leave the UK or their claim will be closed. The claimant still needs to comply with the rules of JSA and can be asked to look for work whilst they are away.

Under Universal Credit a claimant can go abroad for a period of a month for any reason, a longer period of up to six months temporary absence abroad is also allowable for reasons of medical treatment. However, if a claimant chooses to go on holiday in Great Britain or abroad they must continue to carry out the work-related requirements as set out on their Claimant Commitment.

No allowances are made within the conditionality regime for claimants going on holiday.  For example claimants within the All Work-Related Requirements Group with no restrictions on their availability will still be expected to be immediately available to attend a job interview or take up an offer of employment, even if this means cutting short a holiday. They are also required to attend their normal appointments and failure to do so will incur a sanction.

Being on holiday would not be considered by a DWP Decision Maker as good reason for not carrying out any work search or availability requirements.

Regulation 11 of the Universal Credit regulations 2013 sets out that a person on Universal Credit is able to leave the UK for a period not exceeding a month (or not expected to exceed a month). This can be extended in certain exceptional circumstances. However, this provision
does not exempt a claimant from work related requirements as set out on the Claimant Commitment  Here is a link to the regulation:″

I will repeat that: “Being on holiday would not be considered by a DWP Decision Maker as good reason for not carrying out any work search or availability requirements.” and they seem to be sticking to that rule!

A person has a 28 day sanction decision because he was on holiday for a week and could not meet his work search requirement.

The holiday in question was booked before he became unemployed and he was away for a week, in Portugal and had no way of searching for work while he was there.

He accepts and knew that he would not be entitled to UC for the period he was away but is understandably annoyed at the 28 day sanction.

He asked for a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) (where the decision is looked at again by a Decision Maker)

The MR stated that a holiday where the work search requirement cannot be fulfilled is not allowed and the sanction stands…..

RightsNet 2016

Sanctioned for working :

“One interviewee who had an appointment at the Jobcentre, but got called into work. He phoned up the JobCentre to rearrange his appointment, they told him it couldn’t be rearranged and then he was sanctioned because he didn’t go. “So he was actually working and they took £70 off him because he wasn’t there.”

Another has said:  ‘I was working at the time…it was something like,‘we’re going to charge you £10 a day for seven days’ and I said, ‘What, you’re going to fine me £70 for missing an appointment that I couldn’t even ring you to tell you that I’d be late?’ (UC recipient)

Sanctioned, then threatened with eviction

Yet another case involved a woman who was struggling with debt after being given multiple sanctions as she tried to juggle Jobcentre appointments with working part-time and caring responsibilities. She ended up being threatened with eviction from her home.

She said: “It doesn’t give you much confidence. It doesn’t really make you want to go

into work all happy and carrying on, do you know? It knocks you down and

down and it wears you out.”

You can read the report here:

And …. Hardship Payments under Universal Credit:

David Webster, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow (Urban Studies) at the University of Glasgow has stated that:

“The UC regime has similar lengths of sanction to those of JSA for the various ‘failures’, but there are some critical differences. (Feb 2016 briefing)

In a recent interview Iain Duncan Smith said that there were no sanctions for people in work, well it seems that although he didn’t know about in-work sanctions under Universal Credit, his Department of Work and Pensions did.

So I am calling on Stephen Crabb to stop sanctions for in-work claimants immediately, investigate why hard working people are being “fined” and explain why this government deems it necessary to make the sanction regime ever more savage than it is already, when so many people have suffered and died.