Rudd announces softening of ‘counter-productive’ benefits sanctions

Financial sanctions against people who fail to attend job interviews or show that they are actively looking for work will be limited to six months, Amber Rudd, secretary of state for Work & Pensions, has announced.

In a speech at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation in London yesterday, Rudd said: “I feel very strongly about making sure that the policies of this department are fair, compassionate and work for everybody, and I cannot see the need for sanctions that last longer than six months. Such sanctions are rarely used but I believe they are counter-productive and ultimately undermine our goal of supporting people into work.”

It has been a constant criticism by employers over many years that a significant number of those receiving benefits fail to turn up for job interviews, something that sanctions are supposed to stop. 

Under the current rules, financial sanctions that reduce a person’s benefits can be imposed by DWP officials for up to three years. Rudd acknowledged that sanctions are needed but said they should only be used as a last resort. Rudd said the DWP’s policy also needed to be evidence-based. “I am also saying that we are going to look more carefully at the evidence to see what impact sanctions are having in terms of helping people and making sure they do take the conditionality [for receiving benefits] more seriously.”

In a response to a question from Recruiter, Rudd urged employers to take part in the consultation around the £30k minimum salary requirement for allowing foreign workers to come to the UK for work as part of the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy. 

“That figure hasn’t yet been set in stone,” she said, adding: “We have to make sure that we have enough people to do some of the lower-paid jobs.” 

Many employers have complained that the £30k minimum salary requirement is too high, and that unless it is reduced that it will cut off a vital supply of foreign workers, especially in relatively low-paid sectors, such as hotels and catering, care work, construction, logistics and driving.

Rudd declined to respond to a suggestion from Recruiter that in terms of access to overseas talent it would be better if the UK remained in the Single Market. It is currently government policy that the UK leaves the European Single Market. 

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