Benefit sanctions

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) can sanction some benefits. If you get a sanction on your benefit your payments will stop or will be reduced. Sanctions can be placed on the benefits listed below:

The sanction will stop or reduce your benefit for a fixed period of time or until you do your work-related activity. Sanctions can be put on your benefit for different reasons, including not going to a work-focused interview for ESA or for not attending a job interview if claiming JSA.

How long do sanctions last?

Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)

There are three different levels of sanctions:

  1. High - for example if you leave a job voluntarily. Your payments will stop for 13 weeks, 26 weeks for a second failure and three years for a third.
  2. Intermediate - for example if you do not look for work. This level of sanction will stop your payments for a month and for 13 weeks if for a second time. When the sanction period ends you will need to make a new JSA application.
  3. Low - for example if you miss an appointment at the Job Centre. For a low level sanction your payment can stop for up to 13 weeks. After the sanction period, your payments will start automatically.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Income Support (IS)

If you are required to take part in work-related activity and you do not do it, then your payment will be reduced until you complete the work related activity. After this, your payment will be reduced for a further fixed period which is:

  • One week for the first failure
  • Two weeks for the second
  • Four weeks for further failures within 52 weeks

Universal Credit (UC)

If you fail to do any of your work-related requirements, your payments will be reduced. There are four levels of sanction for Universal Credit, which are:

  1. Lowest level sanction - if you are only required to attend work-focused interviews, and fail to. The sanction will last until the day before you attend for a work-focused interview.
  2. Low level sanction - if all of the work-related requirements apply to you and you do not attend. Your sanction will last until the day before you attend, plus a fixed period: 1st sanction - 7 days; 2nd sanction -14 days and 3rd sanction or more - 4 weeks.
  3. Medium level sanction - if you are not available for work or do not look for work. Your sanction will last four weeks if it is your first, if not, the sanction will last for 13 weeks.
  4. Higher level sanction - if you fail to apply or take up work or leave a job voluntarily. If it is your first sanction then your payments will be reduced for 13 weeks, 2nd sanction - 26 weeks and three years for further high level sanctions.

What to do if you feel you have been wrongly sanctioned?

When you have been sanctioned, and you think it is wrong, you will need to show that you had 'good reason' for doing or not doing what you have been sanctioned for.

If you think the decision is wrong or you do not understand why you have been sanctioned, you can:

  • Ask the DWP to explain the reason for your sanction over the phone - how to contact Job Centre Plus
  • Ask the DWP to look at the decision again by requesting a mandatory reconsideration
  • Ask to be sent out a 'written statement of reason' about the decision
  • Appeal the decision, after you have requested a mandatory reconsideration

Appealing a benefit sanction

You can appeal the decision to give you a sanction and also the length of the sanction period. You must request an appeal in writing, within one month from the date of the mandatory reconsideration notice.

Apply for a hardship payment

If you are sanctioned you can apply for a hardship payment if you have no money for basic living expenses. If a hardship payment is awarded, you will be given a reduced amount of benefit.

Further information

If you would like further help, please contact the Welfare Benefits service by telephone on 01896 661394 or by using the online form.

You can also get assistance from Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Find your local CAB on the Citizens Advice Scotland website.

Download benefit resources