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Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) sanctions

Jobseeker's Allowance can be stopped or reduced if you don't follow your Jobseeker's agreement.

1. What are Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) sanctions?

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.

You may have a sanction applied to your claim, this is a reduction (or nil payment) in your benefit 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.

2. How much will a Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) 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 or getting New Style/ Contributory Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), the amount of a sanction will be all of your JSA personal allowance.

If you are a couple getting income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and you are both receiving a sanction, the sanction will be all of your JSA couple's personal allowance.

If you are a couple getting income-based Jobseeker's Allowance 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). 

3. How long will a Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) sanction last?

There are three levels of sanctions for Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), 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 on income-based Jobseeker's Allowance will last for:

  • Four weeks for the first failure

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

A lower level sanction on New Style/Contributory Jobseeker's Allowance will last for:

  • Seven days plus the number of days it takes you to do whatever you failed to do, as long as this is your first sanction in the past year, or
  • Up to 28 days plus the number of days it takes you to do whatever you failed to do, if you have been sanctioned in the past year.

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 decision maker (DM) 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

  • Lose a job through misconduct

  • Fail to take up a job or mandatory work activity without a good reason.

A higher level sanction will last for:

  • 13 weeks for a first failure

  • 26 weeks for a second failure.

Updated: January 2022


4. Good reason why a Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) sanction should not be applied

‘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 physical or mental health condition or disorder that meant you were unable to attend a Jobcentre interview, work or work-related activity

  • Caring responsibilities that make it unreasonable for you to be available (this should include whether suitable childcare would have been (or was) reasonably available

  •  If you are homeless

  • If you are a victim of bullying or harassment at work or you left your job because you were a whistleblower.

People with disabilities and carers

If 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.

You have good reason for giving up or not accepting a job if the travelling time was more than one and a half hours each way.

Updated January 2022

5. Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) Hardship Payment help

A hardship payment is a reduced amount of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) which you may be able to get if you have been refused Jobseeker's Allowance, or your benefit has been stopped, because of doubts about whether you are available for and actively seeking work. You may also be able to get them if:

  • you have been sanctioned
  • you are waiting for the Jobcentre Plus office to decide whether you meet the job seeking conditions
  • your JSA has been stopped for a fixed period following a benefit fraud offence.

You cannot get a hardship payment if your only benefit income is New Style/Contributory Jobseeker's Allowance.

Claiming Hardship Payments

If you want more information about hardship payments, and how to apply for them, you should ask in the Jobcentre Plus office.

You can also contact Jobcentre Plus to find out if you are eligible.

Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
Welsh language 0800 328 1744