What is a work-focused interview?
As of March 2020, for a period of at least 3 months, all work-focused interviews have been suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic. At the time of writing, May 2021, it is not clear whether face-to-face work-focussed interviews are due to be re-introduced.
A work-focused interview is supposed to help move you into paid employment by looking at what you can already do and what further support you might need to help you progress into work.
Many employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants are extremely sceptical of value of work-focused interviews and official DWP statistics suggest that, so far, they have had very little effect on increasing the number of sick and disabled claimants who have found paid employment. They can, however, be extremely lucrative for the mostly private sector companies who deliver the work programme.
When do I have to attend a work-focused interview?
The initial work-focused interview will normally take place during the 4th week of your ESA claim. This interview and any subsequent work-focused interviews are mandatory unless you are terminally ill.
Claimants aged under 18 attend a learning-focused interview instead.
What happens during the initial work-focused interview?
A personal adviser will discuss your work prospects, what you are willing to do in order to move into work and the support that is available to you, even if you feel that you are currently unable to work due to your health condition.
The interview can be waived if you are about to start work or are likely to be starting work. It can be deferred if your condition means that the interview would be inappropriate at that time.
Is this the only work-focused interview?
This depends on which group you are placed in.
If you are put into the support group then you will not have to attend further work-focused interviews.
If you are put into the work-related activity group then you will have to comply with strict work-related conditions in order to continue receiving your full benefit. One of these conditions is to attend and take part in another five work-focused interviews at intervals of about once a month. Your personal adviser will discuss what activities you could be doing to help you get in to work and will also draw up an action plan. It is important to make sure that this action plan takes into account the limitations your health condition put upon you.
What happens if I don’t attend a work-focused interview?
Failure to attend or take part in this interview without good cause – for example, being ill or having a hospital appointment that it would be unreasonable to rearranged - will result in your ESA being reduced. (See ESA sanctions).