Already claimed

4. Sanctions

During the coronavirus outbreak

Before the coronavirus outbreak there were things you needed to do to get Universal Credit, such as look for work. These were recorded in your Claimant Commitment.

Depending on your circumstances, we will contact you to discuss what steps you are taking to look for work, and to agree a new Claimant Commitment. You do not need to call us.

You do not need to attend the jobcentre unless we ask you to do so. If you need to contact us, the quickest way to do this is online or by phone.

If you need to attend a jobcentre, they are open and one of our colleagues will be able to assist you.

You will be required to wear a face covering when entering a jobcentre, unless you are in an exempt category. Do not visit a jobcentre if you have any symptoms of coronavirus. Please also follow the latest government guidance on meeting with others safely and lockdown restrictions

If we need to make an appointment with you, this will be on the phone. We will leave a message in your journal before we call you.

You still need to tell us if anything changes – use the ‘Report a change of circumstances’ link in your online account. If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible.

Read more about coronavirus and Universal Credit.

In return for getting Universal Credit, you will be expected to do things like look or prepare for work. What is asked of you will depend on your situation, and will be recorded in your Claimant Commitment

If you fail to do what you have agreed in your Claimant Commitment without good reason, your Universal Credit payments may be reduced for a set period. This is known as a sanction.

If you are asked to attend a work search review but don’t attend and don’t have a good reason why, you will receive a sanction until you arrange and attend another work search review.

There are different levels of sanctions and they’re decided based on the reason for the sanction. If you have had previous sanctions, this may mean new sanctions will be for a longer period.

If you claim Universal Credit as a couple and only one of you doesn’t meet their responsibilities, you may receive a sanction to your joint payment.

Read more about sanctions and the debts and deductions that can be taken from Universal Credit payments.


If you receive a sanction and you think this is wrong, you can ask for it to be looked at again. This is known as a mandatory reconsideration

If the decision is not changed, you can appeal to an independent tribunal. You can get help with this from Citizens Advice

Help if your payment is stopped or reduced

You can ask for a hardship payment if you have received a sanction and can’t pay for basic needs such as rent, heating or food.

You will need to pay back your hardship payment a bit at a time from your future Universal Credit payments, so they will be lower until you pay it back.

To apply for a hardship payment you’ll need to:

  • be 18 or over
  • show that you’ve tried to find the money from somewhere else, and
  • show that you’ve tried to only spend money on essentials

To ask for a hardship payment call the Universal Credit helpline