Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : New rules require 180,000 on Universal Credit to increase working hours [May 2024]

The press release issued by the Department for Work and Pensions on 13 May 2024.

New rules meaning over 180,000 Universal Credit claimants will have to look for more work have come into force today (Monday 13 May), as the Government helps people progress in work and off welfare.

  • Universal Credit claimants working less than half of a full-time week will have to look to increase their hours, benefitting from extra work coach support.
  • 400,000 to receive more help to progress in work, as Mel Stride says “I want to help thousands of people on their journey off benefits”.
  • Changes come as the PM announces once a generation welfare reforms to help people find work, boost their earnings, and grow the economy.

Before 2022, someone could work only nine hours a week and remain on benefits without being expected to look for more work.

The latest rise in the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) means someone working less than 18 hours – half of a full-time week – will have to look for more work.

These Universal Credit claimants will move into the ‘Intensive Work Search group’, meeting with their work coaches more regularly to plan their job progression, boost their earnings and advance the journey off welfare altogether.

Combined with previous increases, 400,000 claimants are now subject to more intensive Jobcentre support – and with that the expectation that those who can work must engage with the support available or face losing their benefits.

The move comes as last month the Prime Minister announced a once in a generation package of welfare reforms to help thousands more people benefit from employment, building on the Government’s £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan providing extra help to over a million people to break down barriers to work.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

Welfare should always be a safety net, and not a lifestyle choice which is why we’re ushering in a new era of welfare reforms to help more people progress off benefits and into work.

Today’s changes will help more people on Universal Credit move into well paid jobs and progress towards financial independence – which is better for them and for the economy.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP said:

We will always back those who want to work hard, and today we are radically expanding the support available to help people progress in work.

With the next generation of welfare reforms, I want to help thousands of people on their journey off benefits and towards financial independence.

Our plan is making work pay, with people in full-time work now £7,000 better off than on out of work benefits, and our tax cuts putting £900 back in the pockets of millions of workers across Britain.

The AET determines how much support an individual will receive to find work based on how much they currently earn and how many hours they work.

Together with the accelerated rollout of Universal Credit, even more claimants will benefit from the dedicated employment support offered through our Jobcentres like CV support and skills training, so people can take up better paid, higher quality jobs.

This builds on the significant steps already taken to break down barriers to work, with almost four million more people in employment compared to 2010.

The Government is clear those who can work to support themselves, should work, and they should feel better off for doing so.

That’s why the Government is getting tough, putting work at the heart of welfare and enforcing a stricter sanctions regime.

The PM recently announced a package of welfare reform measures, including exploring legislation to close the claims of those who don’t comply with conditions set by their Work Coach after 12 months.

With over 900,000 job vacancies in the economy, the Government makes no apologies for helping people achieve financial security through work, as we grow the economy and help people build a better life for themselves.

Further information:

  • We amended Regulation 99 (6) of the UC Regulations 2013 to raise the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) to £892 per calendar month for individual claimants and £1473 per calendar month for couples on 6th May 2024, with the change being in force from 13th May 2024.
  • With this change, individuals earning below £892 a month or £1,437 for couples – so working less than half of a full-time week – will have to meet more frequently with their work coach to up their earnings. This is up from £617 for individuals and £988 for couples.
  • Previously, the Administrative Earnings Threshold was increased in September 2022 to 12 hours per week at the National Living Wage, and again in January 2023 to 15 hours per week.
  • Impacted claimants will receive a message in their Universal Credit journal and are encouraged to talk to their work coach to understand what it means for them and the help on offer.
  • As with previous increases, claimant commitments will be tailored to personal circumstances and will take into account caring responsibilities as well as any health conditions.