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Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) sanctions

Key information

If you are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and do not follow the terms of your Jobseeker's Agreement you may have your benefit reduced or stopped for a set period of time, this is known as a sanction.


Some job seekers in certain areas may have signed up to a different type of Jobseeker's Agreement because they are part of the Universal Credit pathfinder. This information does not apply.



You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

What are JSA sanctions?

If you are claiming JSA, you may have a sanction applied to your claim, this is a reduction in your benefit. You might be sanctioned if you:

  • left your job voluntarily (but not in the case of voluntary redundancy)
  • lost your job due to misconduct
  • fail to apply for or accept a job that is offered to you 
  • fail to show that you are available for, and actively seeking work
  • fail to attend a compulsory training or employment scheme
  • fail to carry out a direction from a Jobcentre Plus adviser.

How much will a sanction be?

The amount of the sanction will depend on whether you are single or in a couple making a joint claim.

If you are single the amount of a sanction will be all of your JSA personal allowance.

If you are a couple and you are both receiving a sanction, the sanction will be all of your JSA couple's personal allowance.

If you are a couple but only one of you is being sanctioned, the sanction will reduce your JSA couple's personal allowance to the single person's allowance (so the member of the couple who is not being sanctioned still receives some JSA). 

How long will a sanction last?

There are three levels of sanctions which last for set periods of time depending on what you may have failed to do.

Lower level

The lower level of sanction applies if you are asked to do something that will improve your chances of finding or preparing for work and you don't do it. This includes things like:

  • losing a place on a training scheme through misconduct
  • failing to attend or giving up a place on a training scheme
  • failing to attend an interview at Jobcentre Plus
  • failing to carry out part of your jobseeker's agreement.

A lower level sanction will last for:

  • four weeks for the first failure
  • 13 weeks for any further failures within 52 weeks of the last failure.

Intermediate level

The intermediate level of sanction may apply if you reclaim JSA after your previous JSA award has been disallowed.

A JSA award can be disallowed if you (or your joint-claim partner) are found not to be available for, or actively seeking work.

If you go on to make another claim for JSA, it will only be allowed if you can show that you (or your joint-claim partner) are now available for and actively seeking work. 

An intermediate level sanction will last for:

  • four weeks for a first failure
  • 13 weeks for any further failures within 52 weeks of the last failure.

Example from decision maker's guidance:

“Johnny was entitled to JSA but his award came to an end when the DM (decision maker) decided that he was not available for employment and could not be treated as available. This was Johnny’s first ever claim for JSA... The DM decides that a four week reduction will need to be considered with any new award of JSA.”

Higher level

The higher level sanction may apply if, for example, you:

  • leave a job voluntarily
  • leave a job through misconduct
  • fail to take up a job or mandatory work activity

A higer level sanction will last for:

  • 13 weeks for a first failure
  • 26 weeks for a second failure
  • 156 weeks for any further failure within 52 weeks of the last failure.

Jobseeker's Allowance sanctions diagram
Diagram is taken from page 47 of the Department for Work and Pensions guidance for decision makers DMG memo 37/12.

‘Good reason’ why a sanction should not be applied

A sanction will not be applied if you can show that you had ‘good reason’ for the action that led to a sanction being considered.

'Good reason' is not defined in legislation, it will depend on your circumstances.

The following are examples of factors which should be taken into account:

  • If you are a victim of domestic violence you can be treated as available for and actively seeking work for up to 13 weeks. Even after that a fear of domestic violence may mean you have good reason for refusing or leaving employment
  • If you have a mental health condition or disorder, or if you are homeless
  • If you are a victim of bullying or harassment at work, or you left your job because you were a whistle blower.

People with disabilities and carers

f you have a disability or are a carer, you will have good reason for giving up a job or not accepting a job offer if the travelling time would be unreasonable given your caring responsibilities or your health.

In the first 13 weeks of your claim you would have good reason for not accepting a job offer if the travelling time to work is more than one hour each way.

After 13 weeks you would only have good reason if the travelling time was more than one and a half hours each way.

Last updated: 22 July 2014

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