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‘Any job going’ benefit rule takes effect today

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Jobseekers will need to be more willing and flexible in their search for work or face benefit sanctions.

From today, jobseekers will have four weeks to find work before they’re forced to widen their search or face sanctions on their Universal Credit claim.

Previously, jobseekers were given three months to find a job in their preferred sector or occupation.

But as part of the government’s Way to Work campaign to get 500,000 benefit claimants into jobs by the end of June, people will be expected to look elsewhere or face the benefit being cut.

DWP guidance noted: “For jobseekers who do not engage with their Jobcentre Plus fully to find work, the sanctions regime will operate as usual.

“After four weeks, claimants who refuse to widen their job search, attend interviews or take up paid work in roles outside of their preferred sector may be referred for a sanction”.

This rule change is aimed at claimants in the intensive work search group of Universal Credit and those claiming New Style Jobseekers Allowance.

Most sanctions lead to a deduction in benefit rather than the benefit stopping altogether as the sanction is applied to the standard allowance part of Universal Credit. However, there may be instances where the benefit is stopped.

Latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed there were 29.5 million people in employment in December, 409,000 up on the pre-coronavirus February 2020 level.  The unemployment rate decreased to 4.1%, while the economic inactivity rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 21.3%.

However, the number of job vacancies in October to December 2021 rose to a new record of 1.2m, an increase of 462,000 (59%) from its pre-coronavirus January to March 2020 level.

‘Support economic recovery’

At the time of the Way to Work campaign launch in January, work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said: “Helping people get any job now, means they can get a better job and progress into a career.

“Way to Work is a step change in our offer to claimants and employers, making sure our jobcentre network and excellent work coaches can deliver opportunities, jobs and prosperity to all areas of the country.

“As we emerge from Covid, we are going to tackle supply challenges and support the continued economic recovery by getting people into work. Our new approach will help claimants get quickly back into the world of work while helping ensure employers get the people they and the economy needs.”

‘Recovery risk in the long-term’

Morgan Wild, head of policy at Citizens Advice, said: “This plan to potentially increase sanctions to get claimants to take any job going might reduce unemployment in the very short term, but really risks the recovery long-term.

“When pushed like this, people earn less, work fewer hours and end up quitting sooner. People know what work they’re good at. The state pushing them to take anything will look like a short term win, but ends up hurting productivity because people waste time in the wrong jobs.

“And to a large extent it just moves the problem around – people slip out of the benefits system and into being economically inactive altogether. Government should focus on proper re-training etc. (as they’ve been doing, to their credit) rather than this kind of harmful approach.”