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Jobseeker's Allowance

The benefits system is changing, and the 'full service' of Universal Credit (UC) has been introduced in Derbyshire.

It isn't possible to make a new claim for Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance (IBJSA). If you have an existing claim for IBJSA, contact us with any queries.

UC does not replace 'Contribution Based JSA' and it is possible to claim this form of JSA (which is now called 'new-style JSA') without making a claim for UC, or with UC as a top-up benefit if you haven't got sufficient money to live on.

What new-style Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is

You can claim JSA if you are out of work, capable of work, and looking for work. If you are on a zero-hours contract, short-time work or you are laid-off, you may be able to claim. Seek advice.

JSA is payable if you have been working and you have paid enough National Insurance (NI), as an employee over a set number of recent tax years. If you're out of work and you have been self-employed and paying Class 2 National insurance, you cannot get JSA. Seek advice.

JSA is not affected by most other income. It is also affected if you are being paid a personal pension over £50 a week.

It's only payable for a maximum of 6 months.

Who can claim

You must be over 16 and under the age for claiming Pension Credit. If you're under 18, seek advice about benefit entitlement and the rules about benefit sanctions.

JSA is based on your NI record. If you have a partner and they're also unemployed and available for work, they may make a separate claim on their own NI record. You can get JSA even if your partner has other income, such as wages.

Backdating a claim

It may be possible to backdate your JSA claim up to a maximum of 3 months. But this can only be done in set circumstances, such as communication problems owing to illness or disability, or the claim was delayed because you had caring responsibilities for a disabled person and it wasn't possible for you to get help with your claim.

You may also be able to backdate you claim if you were given information by DWP, or in writing from a solicitor, medical practitioner, local authority or advice worker which made you believe your claim for JSA would not succeed. It is also possible to backdate a claim by a maximum of one month, for instance if you've suffered a bereavement of a close relative, or you ceased to be a member of a couple within the period of one month before the claim. Seek advice for more details.

'Conditionality'- what you must do to qualify for JSA

Your claim for JSA and your entitlement to payment depend upon your keeping to the conditions set by the law such as signing on regularly, attending interviews at the Jobcentre and showing what you've done to look for work. This is often referred to as 'conditionality' or 'work-related requirements'.

Remember that not only must your conduct as a claimant be reasonable, but what the Jobcentre asks you to do must be reasonable too. If you think any of the conditions imposed upon you are unreasonable, seek advice.

Claimant Commitment

To receive JSA you must complete a 'Claimant Commitment' which sets out what you must do in terms of seeking work. To continue to be paid benefit and to avoid sanctions (reduction of removal of benefit) you must keep to your commitment.

It's important to make sure that the commitment reflects your full personal situation and contains any information about things (such as illness, disability or caring duties for children or a disabled person) that may limit your ability to seek work, attend interviews or which limits what hours of work you can do. It's also possible to ask the Jobcentre to take into account any reasonable conscientious or religious objections you may have to certain types of work, for instance objecting to working with meat if you are a vegetarian. This used to be a right in law, but is now at the discretion of the Jobcentre and it is important to include such objections in your Claimant Commitment.

If your situation changes, it's important to make sure the Jobcentre knows about this. You can ask your work coach to change your Claimant Commitment if it no longer reflects your true situation.

You must take 'all reasonable action' to look for work and you must be available immediately to take up work. Unless there are any reductions in your Claimant Commitment, this means that you must:

  • look for any type of work
  • be available for work and for interviews right away
  • work any hours
  • spend 35 hours a week looking for work
  • apply for vacancies that Jobcentre Plus tells you about
  • look for work that is a maximum of 90 minutes travel (each way) away from you by public transport
  • attend interviews for work - and take part in them fully
  • take up offers of paid work

The commitment is intended to define what reasonable steps you should take to seek work. So your actions must be reasonable – and so must those of Jobcentre Plus. If you think you're being asked to take actions that are unreasonable, or you're not being supported properly, seek advice.

Things to think about when agreeing a Claimant Commitment

What is your work-history so far?

What experience of different types of work do you have?

What qualifications and training do you have?

Do you have any health problems or disabilities that may limit the type of work you can do, the hours you can do or the distance you can travel to work?

Is there any health or other problem which will limit your ability to travel for work or for meetings at the Jobcentre?

Do you have any caring responsibilities (for children, or someone who is disabled) that you'll need to fit in with your search for work?

What sort of support (like new skills, training, work experience) do you think you need in order to find work?

Is there any sort of work that you'd object to doing for sincerely-held conscientious or religious reasons? For example you may be a committed non-smoker and you don't wish to work in the tobacco industry.

Are you doing any voluntary work that will help you to get paid work and that you wish to carry on doing? You may be asked to reduce your hours of voluntary work as you can only spend half of your work-search time doing voluntary work. And you must give up or change your voluntary work if there's a job available.

If you've previously held a job with specific skills in a particular field, you may be able to restrict your job-search to this type of work for a maximum of 3 months.

You should also mention how the Jobcentre Plus can contact you and if there are any limitations on this, such as you have no land-line or mobile phone, or if you don't have internet access or a computer at home.

Reviewing the commitment

You and your adviser or coach should review the commitment regularly. You may also ask for the commitment to be looked at again if you think that any part of it is out of date or unreasonable.

If you have a dispute over the contents of the commitment, you can ask for a decision maker at Jobcentre Plus to review it. Seek advice before you do this.

Remember that if your circumstances change, you need to keep Jobcentre Plus informed.

If you're ill on JSA

If you're a jobseeker and you become too ill to work, you may usually remain on Jobseeker's Allowance for up to 13 weeks. The requirements on you to seek work should be reduced during this period. You'll need to tell the Jobcentre, and they'll require a doctor's note if you're ill for more than a week.

If you're still unwell after your allowed period of sickness, seek advice. You may be able to claim 'New Style' Employment and Support Allowance based on your National Insurance contributions, possibly with Universal Credit as a top-up benefit.

'Find A Job' and job-search websites

Find A Job has replaced Universal Jobmatch. It's a jobs website created for the government. It's intended to be the best available site for seeking work.

Whatever websites you use, make sure you keep a full record of what you do to search for jobs.

Claiming new-style JSA

If you're 18 or over you can apply online.

If you're under 18, contact Jobcentre Plus tel: 0800 055 6688.

Seek advice if you struggle to claim by phone or online.

You'll need the following details in order to claim:

  • your National Insurance number
  • bank or building society account details (seek advice if you have not got  bank account)
  • employment details for the past 6 months, including employer contact details and dates you worked with them
  • a statement letter showing any private pension you may have

You'll also need to attend an interview at the Jobcentre to get your claim started and your Claimant Commitment written. It's very important to attend this interview. If you have problems attending, seek advice.

Waiting days

There is usually a 7-day waiting period before new-style JSA can be paid.

How much NSJSA is

Under 25 - £61.05 weekly.

Over 25 - £74.70 weekly.

Payment is made fortnightly, in arrears.

Signing on

You'll be given a regular date and time to 'sign on' for JSA at the Jobcentre. If you fail to do so and can't give a good reason why you didn't attend, your benefit will stop.

You should take details of what you have done to seek work with you whenever you go to sign on.

Signing on is usually fortnightly but you can be required to attend more frequently. If this requirement seems unreasonable or causes problems such as regular, costly travel, seek advice.

Regular interviews

You should also expect regular interviews at the Jobcentre to review your search for work and update your Claimant Commitment. If there's a specific action that Jobcentre feels you need to take in order to improve your chances of getting a job, you may be sanctioned if you fail to take this action without good cause.

If you fail to attend or to participate in interviews without good cause, your benefit will stop. You'll need to tell the Jobcentre within 5 days if you have good cause. If in doubt, seek advice.

Working part-time

It's possible to do some part-time work whilst claiming JSA, but you must be prepared to give this up if full time work is available, and you should continue actively to seek work.

If you work 16 hours a week or more you will lose JSA altogether. Seek advice on what other benefits you could claim if your pay is low. Any earnings over £5 will usually affect your JSA and a small weekly income may stop your entitlement altogether. Seek advice if you're thinking about doing part-time work.

Voluntary work

You may do voluntary work while you're looking for full time paid work. This must not be paid in any way other than your reasonable expenses.

You must still search for full-time work and you must be willing to give up your voluntary work in order to take up full-time work.

If you do voluntary work, think about the ways in which this improves your ability to work and your skills and keep a note of this.

Jobcentre Plus can help you find voluntary work through their 'Work Together' programme.

You'll be expected to be available for work immediately, but you may be allowed more time to get ready for work or for interviews if you do voluntary work. You must keep to your benefit conditions and it's best to advise the Jobcentre of any voluntary work you do.

Sanctions - when your JSA may be reduced or stopped

Your JSA payments (but not your entitlement to JSA unless you do something that ends your claim such as failing to sign on) can be stopped, or your payments reduced.

Who imposes sanctions?

A decision maker (DM) at Jobcentre Plus.

External bodies, such as government work scheme providers who are working with Jobcentre Plus, may provide them with information that leads to a sanction, but only the DM may actually impose sanctions.

What the sanctions are

Sanctions are set at different levels depending upon the 'offence' committed, and whether you have committed more than one 'offence' within a set period.

Lower level sanctions

'Lower level' sanctions are open-ended and will only end when you comply with the requirement. Once you have complied, the sanction is extended by a fixed period of 7 days. This period can be increased to 14 days if you have been sanctioned in the same way within the last year, or 28 days if you have received a 14-day or 28-day sanction in the last year.

These are imposed if:

  • you fail without good reason to carry out your 'work search' requirements
  • you don't attend or participate in an interview 'for any purpose relating to a work-related requirement'

Medium level sanctions

These are imposed if you fail to search for work or be available for work without good reason. Sanctions apply for fixed periods of:

  • 28 days
  • 13 weeks if you are sanctioned again at the same level within 52 weeks

Higher level sanctions

Higher level sanctions are for fixed periods of:

  • 91 days
  • 182 days

The sanction period is stepped up if you are sanctioned again at this level within 52 weeks of the last sanction.

These apply if you:

  • fail to take part in 'Mandatory Work Activity' (periods of up to 4 weeks of unpaid work or work-related activity) without good reason
  • fail to apply for a job without good reason
  • fail to take up an offer of work without good reason
  • 'neglect to avail yourself' of a job opportunity
  • leave a job voluntarily or lose pay (does not include voluntary redundancy)

If you think a sanction is wrong, it's important to dispute the decision. Contact us. It's important to do this because if a sanction is imposed wrongly and you do not oppose it, it will remain effective and you could be affected more severely if you are sanctioned again within a year.

You must ask Jobcentre Plus to look at its decision again ('Mandatory Reconsideration') before you may appeal to an independent tribunal.

You should act as soon as possible. There's a one-month limit for requesting reconsideration, unless you can show why your request was late.

If you're challenging a sanction, this time limit does not apply.

Contact us for more information and support with Mandatory Reconsiderations and appeals.

If you wish to appeal or have an appeal pending, please tell us as soon as you can, as owing to the number of appeals that we do, we cannot take on new work at short notice.

How much benefit you lose

Your benefit may be reduced or you may not be paid at all for the period of the sanction, depending upon your circumstances. You're usually still treated as entitled to JSA during this time even if you are not actually paid.

Good reason

This is not defined in the rules, but should be open to reasonable interpretation.

Your personal circumstances should be taken into account, like:

  • any illnesses or disabilities you have that may make certain jobs unsuitable
  • whether you had medical or other appointments that could not reasonably be rearranged
  • any caring responsibilities that limit your ability to take up work or attend interviews
  • unreasonably high expenses that a job may incur (like child care, excessive travel)
  • if you have a sincerely held conscientious objection to certain types of work

Your Jobseeker's Agreement should contain details of factors that limit your ability to take up work or training right away, work certain hours or work in certain types of job. If it doesn't, seek advice about updating it. New jobseekers may find that the Jobseeker's Agreement is retitled the 'Claimant Commitment'.


There's no fixed definition of this. It should mean generally that you have done something, or failed to do something, that is blameworthy. Misconduct must have something to do with your job. This can include misconduct outside of working hours (for example, someone whose job is driving being found guilty of drink-driving).

It may not always be clear that there is a case of misconduct. If your employer is satisfied with your conduct but not with the quality or quantity of your work and dismisses you, this is not misconduct.

Hardship payments

You may request hardship payments to help you through a sanction period. They're paid at a percentage of your usual benefit.

Unless you're counted as vulnerable, you cannot get hardship payments for the first 2 weeks of a sanction period. Vulnerable means you would suffer hardship if no payment were made and:

  • you or your partner are pregnant
  • you are responsible for some aged under 16
  • your JSA includes a disability premium
  • you or your partner has a chronic medical condition which has lasted 26 weeks or more and is likely to worsen in the next 2 weeks
  • you or your partner cannot carry out your caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit should not usually stop just because your JSA is sanctioned. However, your claim may be suspended if the local authority becomes aware that your circumstances have changed but they have not been told why.

It's important to tell the Housing Benefits office that you have a reduced income or no income at all, so that they may adjust your claim. Also inform them when the sanction ends, or if you win an appeal.

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