EMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE (ESA) SANCTIONS
What is a Benefit Sanction?
Certain benefits are paid on the basis that you meet certain conditions. This is called conditionality. Where these conditions are not met benefits can be sanctioned so benefit payment is suspended for a certain period.
Employment & Support Allowance Sanctions
Employment & Support Allowance sanctions have been changed from 3rd December 2012. Sanctions can be applied only to those who are in the work related activity group. They do not apply during the initial 13 week assessment period and do not apply if you are placed in the support group.
People who are placed in the work related activity group are expected to attend and participate in work focused interviews and to carry out work related activities. If you are adversely affected by the work related activity you are required to undertake it is suggested that you keep a written record of this. You could use this as evidence to request a reconsideration of your entitlement to the support group or alternatively to back up any application for good cause in the event of a sanction being imposed.
You can be sanctioned if you fail to take part in a work focused interview or fail to comply with a work related activity direction. The sanction does not apply if you have “good cause”. You must notify the Job Centre of your good cause arguments within 5 days of the failure that is at risk of being sanctioned.
The term “good cause” can include issues such as:
- health or disability
- language or literacy problems
- transport problems
- conflicting appointments you could not reasonably rearrange
- attending a funeral
- attending a job interview
For work-related activity religious reasons might also be considered if they prevent you undertaking the activity.
Other issues could also be “good cause”.
How much is this sanction?
Employment & Support Allowance will be reduced by 100% of the prescribed amount for a single claimant which is £71.70 (2013-2014 figures). Your Employment & Support Allowance will not be reduced below 10p per week.
How long does this sanction last?
The sanction will end when the interview is attended or work related activity is undertaken although the sanction runs on for a short further period after the compliance.
This further period is:
- 1 week for the first failure
- 2 weeks for the second failure in the last 52 weeks
- 4 weeks for any subsequent failures within the last 52 weeks
You can apply for a hardship payment (paid at 60% of the appropriate single person rate which is £43.00 2013-2014 figures). In deciding hardship payment the Department for Work & Pensions will take into account:
- Whether you meet the conditions for a disability premium or disabled child element for child tax credit
- The household income and availability of assistance from family or friends
- The risk of not having access to adequate levels of essentials (such as food, clothing and heating)
- The length of time these factors will apply for
If you are not eligible for a hardship payment, consider whether you can claim any other benefits.
Safeguards to prevent the misapplication of sanctions
The Department for Work & Pensions have said they will issue claimants with reminders before work focussed interviews and will consider whether attendance can be waived or deferred. Home visits can be offered.
They will consider whether you have “good cause” before imposing a sanction (see above). They will try to contact people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities or other conditions affecting their ability to communicate or understand before considering a sanction. They may also contact a carer or health care professional in this situation.
All Employment & Support Allowance sanctions are subject to the right of appeal. For decisions made on or after 28th October 2013 you will need to seek Mandatory Reconsideration before you appeal. You should seek advice in this situation. There is a high rate of success with sanctions appeals.