What is a sanction?


A sanction is a penalty imposed on you by the Department for Work and Pensions if you don’t meet the requirements you agreed to in your claimant commitment.

If you are sanctioned your universal credit will be reduced until the sanction period has ended. There are four levels of sanction depending on the importance of the task you failed to complete.

The levels are:

  • High level, e.g. not taking up a job offer
  • Medium level, e.g. not doing everything you can to find a job
  • Low level, e.g. not preparing a CV
  • Lowest level, e.g. not meeting with your work coach to talk about future work plans

How much will I lose from my universal credit if I am sanctioned?

If you have a child of three or over you will lose the standard allowance from your universal credit for the length of the sanction. Single parents with a child aged one or two will lose 40% of their standard allowance. Single parents with a child of under one year cannot be sanctioned.

How long is a sanction?

You can be sanctioned for varying lengths of time, from a few days to years, depending on your circumstances and how many times you have failed to complete a task agreed in your claimant commitment.

See the Your Responsibilities page on the Government website


June has two children aged 6 years and 3 months. She has to attend work focused interviews at Jobcentre Plus, as part of her claimant commitment, but is not expected to look for work or take a job.

However, if June’s youngest child was 3 years old, under the terms of her claimant commitment, she would be expected to apply for jobs. If she refused to take a job she was offered, without having a good reason for turning it down, June could be sanctioned for up to 3 years and lose £317.82 each month from her universal credit.

How do I know I have been sanctioned?

You should be told verbally by your work coach that you are going to be sanctioned, given the opportunity to challenge the decision and apply for a hardship payment. You should also be sent notification of the sanction in writing.

Complaining about a sanction

If you don’t think you should be sanctioned, you can ask for the decision to be looked at. This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration. This has to be done within strict time limits.

Hardship payments

You can apply for a hardship payment if you don’t have money for food, heating, housing etc. The payment is 60% of your standard allowance of universal credit. You have to pay back this money from future universal credit payments once your sanction has ended or you move into work.

Related Content

See our Benefits related information, including Universal Credit.

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