JSA Maximum Sanction Increases To Three Years From October 22nd 2012

Changes to the sanction regime for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants have been voted through in a parliamentary select committee, which will see the maximum sanction length for JSA claimants raised to three years from October 22nd 2012. The shortest sanction length will also be increased from one to four weeks. ESA claimants see a new sanction regime come into force on December 3rd, with a maximum of four weeks sanction, and the amount being sanctioned raised to 70% of their ESA payments.

The new JSA regime changes how sanctions are applied with three different levels attracting different lengths of sanctions.  Lower level sanctions, including missing appointments at the job centre or workfare provider will see claimants left without money for four weeks in for the first offence and 13 weeks for the second. So if you are 9 minutes late for an appointment because a job interview ran long, you’ll have no money for one or three months.

Intermediate level sanctions also attract four then 13 week sanctions, but it is not detailed what this is for, except that they follow a period of disallowance.

Higher level sanctions are for the supposedly worst offences such as being unable take part in Mandatory Work Activity, or failing to apply for a job. The first will be 13 weeks, then 6 months and finally 3 years. If someone gets a job for 6 months, then any remaining sanction will be written off. So if you get an interview, and start MWA late so you can prepare for and attend it, you could find yourself sanctioned for 4 months, 6 months or 3 years.
The Social Security Advisory Committee has said that sanctions for MWA were already disproprtionate (PDF, section 4.16). Now they are being increased.

With half a million sanctions having been handed out in 2011, it is clear that many people will get sanctioned, leaving them without money for food or bills. The increase of the minimum sanction length to four weeks is as much of a concern as the new 3 year maximum, and will no doubt see more people needing the services of food banks to keep their children fed.

All of this is in preparation for the introduction of Universal Credit, which will also see part time and low income workers caught up in the sanction and conditionality regime, further increasing the scope for creating destitution and extreme poverty. It is not clear if the sanctions regime will change again when Universal Credit starts.

But the Tories say this is not a problem, because Hardship Loans (maximum £42/week) will be available for people sanctioned, which will be repayable from benefits, leaving people with even less money to live off after their sanction ended.

All this will see more people turning to legal loan sharks like Wonga, who have seen a 269% increase in their profits in the past year alone, leaving more and more people in positions of spiralling debts they cannot pay off.

There is also a problem with housing benefit, and whether people with longer sanctions will have problems with proving they are eligible if they have any problems with their claim. In Birmingham, Sifa Fireside, who work with homeless and vulnerably housed people, say “housing benefit is increasingly suspended if people are being sanctioned by Job Centre Plus“. This problem can only increase with longer sanctions in place, leaving people at even greater risk of homelessness.

These sanctions are not just punitive, they look to be about hounding people off benefits entirely, without regard for what happens to them. They will not help anyone to find work, nor create the jobs that would be needed for everyone to be able to get a job. They will however reduce the claimant count, allowing the government to claim unemployment is falling.

These are the details of the new sanctions regime, taken from DWP change implementation documents sent to us:


Sanction  level: Low Level

  • Failure to Attend any Mandatory Interview (this includes NJWFI, Flexible Intervention, Work Programme Referral interview)
  • Failure to undertake Work Related Activity

Sanction Length: Sanctions are unlimited, benefits will be restored when someone has “re-engaged” with the programme, and will then be followed by:

First sanction: 1 week; Second sanction is 2 weeks and further sanctions will be 4 weeks. The level of sanction will also increase to 70% of payments.

This comes into effect on December 3rd 2012.


Sanction Level: Lower

  • Failure to attend adviser interview
  • Failure to participate without good reason in Employment, Skills and Enterprise (ESE) Schemes
  • Failure to comply with Jobseeker Direction
  • Neglect to avail of place on programme or training course
  • Refuse, fail to attend or lose through misconduct a place on a programme or training course

First sanction is 4 weeks, second is 13 weeks.

Sanction Level: Intermediate

Only applied following a  new claim within a certain period

Follows disallowance for available/actively seeking work

First sanction: 4 weeks, second sanction: 13 weeks

Sanction Level: Higher

  • “Leaving a Job Voluntarily
  • Losing a Job Through Misconduct
  • Failure to participate without good reason in Mandatorw Work Activity Scheme
  • Negelct to avial of employment opportunity
  • Refuse or fail to apply for a job

First sanction: 13 weeks, Second sanction: 26 weeks, Third sanction 156 weeks (3 years).

Follows disallowance for available/actively seeking work

Click the image for a large scan of the original document this information is taken from:

These are scans of the letters now being given to jobseeker’s informing them of the changes:


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Marie Keates

The sanctions target the weak and compliant, the hardcore 'don't want to work' crowd (of which there are no doubt a few) aren't sanctioned because the advisors are too afraid of their reaction. My son has been sanctioned several times. He is twenty two, polite and accepting of his fate, he has two parents in work. A nice easy target. This time he was sanctioned for not doing enough job searching activity despite 30 CV's given out in person in response to job cards in shop windows, more than ten on line applications, two interviews a job induction course and a five day a week back to work course in the last two weeks. His back to work course worker tells me he works harder than anyone else there at getting a job. What exactly could he be doing to avoid being sanctioned? Perhaps he should chain himself to a shop or an office until they employ him or get himself a sandwich board. Needless to say I am appealing for him and complaining officially.

It is depressing enough for young people trying to find work without a kick in the teeth like this. No wonder there is so much suicide amongst the young unemployed. This government has a great deal to answer for.

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Mabel Campbell

I dont understand that when they send you a letter stating how much you are entitled to on Job Seekers it says that the law says you need £???? to live on, yet they can half this amount just because you fail to atend a (pure waste of time) job search thing, which costs £8:80 for a return to get to, they give you the bus fare back but where in hell do they think you get it from in the first place especially when it falls on the week between giros. Crazy people are running this country, or should I say ruining this country.

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wendy baker

If the LAW states you need a certain amount to live on as Mabel Campbell states, where is the judiciary in all of these sanctions, their silence is deafening.

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James DRAYcott

My jsa has been sanctioned for a year what am I suposed to do when I live 2 mile away from the job centre walk in the rain and every other weather with my pains in my leg and chest yea them in the job centre should realise that I can't have a 9am appointment meaning I have to set of from mine at 7.30 and got to be up at 6.30 it's wrong


they are murderers for doing this

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Karen Robinson

I have just been sanctioned for four weeks for failing to attend my signing on day...I have had seizures in the past, they have affected my 'prospective memory' the one that stores times, dates etc...I had simply got the day wrong but turned up at the right time knowing how important attending an appointment is and I was twenty fours hours late...this was just last week, the 18th of April, however the four week sanction as been imposed from the 5th April (when I had my first ever interview for a new claim of JSA) Until the 17th May which is over seven weeks not four, yet when I question the JCP they cant tell me why this should be even though the government says a sanction should be imposed the same week as the failure to attend not from two weeks prior AAAARRRRGGGG Its so frustrating, I have been in the system on but mostly off since 1981 never missing an appointment before, I saw an adviser on Friday 5th April, he told me you sign on two weeks from today the 18th, I put into my pocket calendar, made a mental note. I dont watch tv nor do I read the papers, I simply had Friday as the 18th of April not the Thursday. I have appealed I have also cliamed hardship payments as I have only had one payment since the 22 March and surely the seizures, which I can provide evidence of, the lack of memory could be classed as an mental issue anyway?? I will let you know if I have not starved to death or been evicted :(


JSA advisors are complaining they are worried about threats of violence after they leave the office at night all because IDS and the scum torys want to bash the poor.

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ann sanderson

a great article keep up the good work this government are a disgrace they ought to hang their heads in shame robbing the workers to give to the rich scapegoating the unemployed sanctions ought to be against human rights what is this world coming to when we have more billionaires per head of population than other countries and yet we have food banks


I have been on sanction since January of this year at first it was for silly reasons like not doing enuff to find work, then I told them I was looking to start my own business and they told me because I was working on my own business I was not fully available to do full time work so the sanctions would continue, then at long last when I thought that it would end , it didnt, when I queried it I was then given the run a round because no one at the centre could find out why the sanctions were still in place, then finally someone was able to use their system properly and I was told that I was on indefinate sanction , I made more enquiries and was told I would have to provide ALL MY JOB SEARCH HISTORY from the time that I was first sanctioned (5 months total) then they would look at it and make a decision on whether or not to reinstate my claim. I do not have the info they require as I don't keep a lot of junk and old or used paper around so I will not provide them with it and I have also stopped filling out and using their website so as a result I now get a new sanction every time I sign on. Untill I get my business up and running this is how it will be.


I just want to say I'm a single parent raising one child, We both live in isolation as we have no family living near us. I have been sanctioned more than once, just for not attending an interview with an adviser, but my child's health and safety comes before any adviser, especially when I have no one to look after them! I couldn't even take my child with me to the adviser interview. What do they expect me to do?

I've been on the Work Programme now for twenty-two months. And all I hear about is job-seeker's, or, people as I like to call them, who have done work for no more than two weeks at a time, some are subject to '0' hour contracts and others are doing just casual work! This is a joke, people want jobs that last...


You need to amend article.
"ESA claimants see a new sanction regime come into force on December 3rd, with a maximum of four weeks sanction"

Maximum - Minimum

ghost whistler

This is sick. Our country is dying because of these bastard tories