Universal Credit is a state benefit that aims to support individuals with a low income without taking into account the number of hours that they work. Through this blog post, we will learn whether the authorities at Universal Credit, that is the Department for Work and Pensions can force a Universal Credit claimant to work. In addition to this, we will also explore whether claimants are required to inform their Job Centre when they find a job and how much they can earn to claim Universal Credit. 

Can Universal Credit Force You To Work?

No, the Department for Work and Pensions cannot force a Universal Credit claimant to work; although in certain situations they may ask you to prepare for work if you have agreed to it in your Claimant Commitment.

If you are currently out of work but have agreed to look for work in your Claimant Commitment (a formal agreement signed by claimants based on mutually agreeable terms between them and their work coach), you will be expected to perform the following tasks:

  • writing or updating a CV
  • looking for and applying to relevant jobs
  • attending professional training courses recommended by your work coach

Universal Credit claimants are not expected to work if they face any of the following conditions:

  • disability or health condition: whether physical or mental
  • childcare responsibilities; especially if your youngest child is under one year of age
  • victims of domestic abuse
  • faced with homelessness or at risk of it
  • suffering from a bereavement
  • taking care of a family member
  • recovering from alcohol or drug abuse
  • care leaver seeking education (up to the age of 22)

In addition to this, you can also claim Universal Credit if you are a stay-at-home mum. However, to be eligible for the benefit, you should be able to meet the below criteria:

  • aged between 18 (in some cases it may be 16 or 17) and state pension age
  • unemployed or on low income
  • total savings between the claimant and their partner are less than £6,000 
  • experiencing high costs for childcare
  • suffering from a disability or health condition
  • caring for someone else
  • the youngest child is less than a year old

You can also be eligible for Universal Credit payments if you quit your job due to any of the following reasons:

  • taking voluntary redundancy due to reasonable circumstances
  • weren’t paid according to the National Minimum Wage 
  • did not feel safe due to the lack of health and safety standards in the working conditions 
  • did not feel safe due to fear of being bullied or harassed 
  • worked on a zero-hour contract

However, if Universal Credit claimants deliberately refuse a job to continue receiving benefits despite agreeing to it in their Claimant Commitment, they may be sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions. This means that their Universal Credit payments will be temporarily reduced or stopped altogether.

If a claimant is sanctioned but is unable to meet the costs of rent, heating, food or hygiene, they can apply for a hardship payment to meet these expenses and pay it back to the DWP when their Universal Credit payments resume. To qualify for a hardship payment, claimants must be:

  • be above 18 years of age
  • prove that they tried to find the money from somewhere else but were unsuccessful
  • provide evidence that the hardship payment will only be spent on essentials

How Much Can You Earn And Still Get Universal Credit?

It is understandable that with a rise in income, you will face a reduction in your benefits. In the case of Universal Credit, for every £1 that you (or your partner earn), 55p will be counted as income during your Universal Credit calculation. 

The standard allowance rates for Universal Credit are classified as follows; depending on individual circumstances:

SpecificationsPrevious amount New amount
Single and under 25 years£257.33£265.31
Single and over 25 years £324.84£334.91
Couples under the age of 25 years £403.93£416.45
Joint claimants with one or both above 25 years£509.91£525.72
Additional amount for people with a first child born before 6 April 2017£282.50£290
Additional amount for people with a first child born after 6 April 2017, second or more child/children£237.08£244.58
Lower rate additional amount for people with a disabled child£128.89£132.89 

To confirm the amount of Universal Credit payments that you qualify for, you can use an independent Benefits Calculator

Should I Inform Universal Credit If I Get A Job?

Yes, you should inform the Department for Work and Pensions immediately when you get a job. In fact, you should also keep them updated when you get an increase in pay or experience any other change in circumstances that affect your eligibility criteria or the scale of Universal Credit payments. 

In case of finding a job, you should inform the DWP of the following:

  • who your employer is 
  • the date when the job will start 
  • the date by when your pay will increase

While communicating a change to the DWP, you should state your disposable income in such cases, which is the take-home amount after your deduction of taxes, NIC and pension fund from your gross income.

Conclusion:

We’ve learnt from the discussion in this article that while Universal Credit does not force any of its claimants to work; however, depending on the circumstances stated in their Universal Credit application as well as the Claimant Commitment that they have agreed to with their work coach, claimants will be expected to look for a job or prepare for one. This does not include exempted claimants mainly those with a disability, health condition or victims of domestic abuse.

FAQs: Can Universal Credit Force You To Work?

Are you forced to look for work on Universal Credit?

No, you are not forced to look for work if you claim Universal Credit. However, if you have agreed to look for work in your claimant commitment, you will be expected to do so or you may be sanctioned by the DWP.

How often do you have to see your work coach on Universal Credit?

Usually, Universal Credit claimants are required to meet their work coach every three months. The purpose of these meetings is to reassess the claimant’s circumstances so that any changes can be used to adjust their future Universal Credit payments.

How many hours do you have to work to get Universal Credit?

There is NO minimum or maximum limit to the number of hours that claimants need to work to claim Universal Credit. For every £1 that you (or your partner earn), 55p will be counted as income during your Universal Credit calculation.

What happens if you stop working on Universal Credit?

If you lose your job while claiming Universal Credit, your payments may increase if your job ended due to good reasons. However, if you left your job to receive more benefits, the authorities can sanction you and your Universal Credit payments can be reduced or stopped.

What are commitments on Universal Credit?

The Claimant Commitment is a set of mutually agreed terms between a Universal Credit claimant and their work coach. It includes the responsibilities of the claimant towards looking for and preparing for a job as well as the consequences of not being able to meet their commitments.

References:

Universal Credit if you’re employed | nidirect.

Understanding Universal Credit – What you need to do on Universal Credit

Getting a job or pay increase while on Universal Credit – Citizens Advice

Universal Credit: Your responsibilities – GOV.UK

Universal Credit explained | MoneyHelper

Can I be a stay-at-home mum and claim Universal Credit?

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