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What is an ESA sanction?

A sanction is when your employment and support allowance (ESA) is reduced because you didn’t abide by the rules about work-related activity or work-focused interviews.

Who can be sanctioned?

Claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) can be sanctioned if they do not adhere to certain conditions without good cause.

Sanctions can be imposed for:

  • Failing to attend or take part in a work-focused interview.
  • Failing to take part in compulsory work-related  activity.

What is “good cause”?

This means having an acceptable reason for not attending an interview or for not complying with the work-related activity. A decision maker should consider the following when deciding if you have good cause, before reducing your benefit:

  • If you had transport problems
  • If your health or disability prevented you attending
  • If you have language, literacy or learning difficulties
  • If you had a medical appointment that would be unreasonable to rearrange
  • Bereavement

This list is not exhaustive and the decision maker may consider other reasons as good cause.

You can ask for this decision to be looked at again.

How much will I lose from my benefits if I receive an ESA sanction?

From 3 December 2012, the benefit reduction is 100 per cent of the personal allowance that applies for a single person who qualifies for ESA, where their award includes a work-related activity component or a support component.  In other words, the sanction is the same amount as the personal allowance for main phase ESA.

Your weekly benefit cannot be reduced by more than this amount and you must be left with at least 10 pence a week.

This means that you will still be paid any other amounts to which you are entitled.  This may include a component, if you qualify for one. In addition, if you are entitled to income-related ESA you will still be entitled amounts for a partner, premiums and, for example, housing costs if relevant.

How long does an ESA sanction last?

The sanction will last until you attend and take part in the work-focused interview or comply with the work-related activity.

You are also given a further fixed-period sanction as follows:

  • one week, if it is the first time you have been sanctioned; or
  • two weeks, if you failed to attend an interview two weeks or more after, but within 52 weeks of, a previous failure to attend an interview that resulted in a sanction; or
  • four weeks, if you failed to attend an interview two weeks or more after, but within 52 weeks of, a previous failure to attend that resulted in a two- or four-week sanction.


It will also end if you are moved into the support group or if you stop being entitled to ESA.