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‘I'm worried about Jobseeker’s Allowance Sanctions’
> I want to know about the jobseeking rules’

Getting Jobseeker's Allowance means, in effect, making a deal with the Jobcentre Plus. They agree to give you money, provided that you agree to do your best to find work. That’s the deal. The problem is that as the government makes the rules, not you, it’s them who decides what counts as doing your best to find work.

The rules can be divided into three groups:
  1. The main jobseeking conditions
  2. Other requirements
  3. Avoiding 'Big Fails'

The main jobseeking conditions

icon-key1.jpg The jobseeking conditions come in two main parts:
1. You have to show that you available for work
2. You have to show that you are actively seeking work

You also have to have a current jobseeker's agreement, or claimant commitment, in place, to show how you're going to be available for work and how you're going to actively seek work. 

As well as these conditions, there are also a few other things that you also need to do. They are not technically part of the jobseeking conditions but they can still lead to sanctions. I’ll talk about these at the bottom of this page as ‘other requirements’.

Let’s look at the conditions one by one. I need to add that the detail to these is complicated, and there’s loads of ifs and buts, but the basics are as follows…

Showing that you are available for work

The basics of this are fairly simple. You need to

There is some good news. For example

Showing that you are actively seeking work

This is really just what it says on the tin. It’s not good enough to say you’ll keep your eyes open for any jobs that pop up. The Jobcentre Plus will expect you to take ‘steps’ to find work every week: in fact they will normally expect you to take at least three steps. Steps to find work could be virtually anything, but common examples include:

The steps you take in any particular week have to be ‘reasonable’, both from the point of view of the Jobcentre Plus (are you doing enough, bearing in mind your abilities etc?) and from your part of view (are they expecting you to do things that realistically you can’t do?).

It’s really important that you can prove that you’ve taken any steps you’ve taken. There’s not much point in spending hours searching for jobs on the internet if you don’t bring evidence of this to the Jobcentre Plus when you sign on (perhaps print outs of your search history, or of employers’ web pages).

icon-key1.jpgIt’s also important to show them that you have a good attitude. This can clearly be hard sometimes, but it’s necessary. The Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations specifically allow them to ignore any steps you have made if you’re abusive to Jobcentre Plus staff, for example, or act in a way that undermines your chances of getting a job.

Your jobseeker’s agreement or claimant commitment

In general, both the jobseeker's agreement and the claimant commitment contain similar things, basically all the stuff we’ve been talking about before: how many hours you’re willing to work, the types of work you’re willing to do, and what you’re saying you’re going to do to find work, for example. They also include any restrictions in your availability that the Jobcentre Plus has accepted.

There's two important things to note:
  1. It’s hard for the Jobcentre Plus to argue that you haven’t taken enough steps to look for work if you’ve done everything in the jobseeker's agreement or claimant commitment, so it's a very good idea to make sure you keep to it;
  2. It follows from this that you need to take care when your jobseeker’s agreement or claimant commitment is being drawn up. If you say you are available any hours of the day, any days of the week, and then turn down a job that involves working till 7.00 pm on Sunday evening, this might cause you problems later on, as the Jobcentre Plus may hold you to this.

Other Requirements

As I said before, these aren’t technically part of the jobseeking conditions, but you still have to keep to them if you don’t want to risk getting a sanction. The main ones are as follows: 

Avoiding 'Big Fails'

There isn't an official name for this group, but it describes them quite well, as you'll see them later when we look at the sanctions. These are the things you need to avoid:

You will notice that the first two can only apply at the start of a claim, not during a claim.

icon-key1.jpgJust because your ex-employer says you left voluntarily, or left because of misconduct, it doesn't follow that that's what happened. It's therefore very important that if the Jobcentre Plus asks you for your side of the story that you give them as much information as possible.

Apart from leaving a job because of misconduct, the law allows you the excuse of 'good reason' here. What counts as a good reason (and what doesn't count' isn't set down in law. It will all depend on your particular case, which means that it is very important to give the Jobcentre Plus all the relevant details.

icon-warning1.jpgRefusing a job because you would have to travel for an hour and a half to get to work, and to get home again, will not normally count as a good reason, unless there are other complications as well.

Even having to journey time of more than an hour and a half will not necessarily count as a good reason for refusing a job.

‘What happens if I haven’t kept to the jobseeking rules?’
'What can I do if I've been sanctioned and/or my JSA ends?’