New rules to be introduced in September will force thousands of part-time working people on Universal Credit to engage in “Intensive Work Search” activities to continue receiving benefits, it has been announced.
The Administration Earnings Threshold (AET) separates the Intensive Work Search (IWS) labour market regime from the Light Touch labour market regime in Universal Credit (UC).
Claimants who make less than the AET or don’t make any money are put in the Intensive Work Search regime. People who reach the AET or higher are put in the Light Touch regime.
The labour market regime tells a claimant how often they have to communicate to Jobcentre Plus and what they have to do to get a job.
Those in IWS are required to do all work-related activities. Those in the Light Touch regime, on the other hand, have not been required to have regular contact with Jobcentre Plus or engage in intensive work-related activities.
From September of this year, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will be making a new labour market regime for Light Touch. This will result in many more Light Touch claimants being moved to the IWS regime.
Since its start in 2013, the AET hasn’t kept up with the rises in the National Living Wage. As a result, the number of hours needed to earn the AET has gone down over time.
The change will bring the AET back to “parity” with the National Living Wage, which is what it was before.
This change to section 99(6) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 will make the AET equal to a person working 12 hours per week or a couple working 19 hours per week between them.
For single claimants, this means an increase in work earnings from £355 to £494 per calendar month and from £567 to £782 per calendar month for couples. The threshold will go up in the future to match the National Living Wage.
The DWP estimates that about 114,000 people who are currently in the Light Touch regime will move to the Intensive Work Search regime as a result of this change.
Failure to comply with the requirements to engage in intensive work-related activities could result in a claimant being sanctioned.
This means their Universal Credit payments will be significantly reduced for a predetermined length of time or until they adhere to the new job search requirements placed upon them.