Jobseeker’s allowance – special rules for single parents

Date last updated: 11 October 2018

Jobseeker’s allowance – special rules for single parents

There are special rules for single parents who claim jobseeker’s allowance. This information explains what the rules are and where they can be found in the law. If you are having difficulties with Jobcentre Plus in relation to any of the issues covered below, you may want to take this information with you to your appointment.

Attending interviews and starting work

You can have up to seven days to attend an interview

Usually jobseekers have to attend an interview if given 48 hours’ notice. Single parents do not have to attend within 48 hours if it would be unreasonable to do so due to your caring responsibilities.

Single parents can ask for up to seven days’ notice to attend an interview to take account of your caring responsibilities. An example would be to allow you time to find childcare. The seven days does include weekends.

You should attend an interview if given seven days’ notice or your jobseeker’s allowance may be stopped. If you are sanctioned you can challenge the sanction. You can also apply for a hardship payment to access money during the sanction period. For more information see our factsheet on sanctions.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 5(1A) of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996

Paragraphs 21270 & 21271 in the Department for Work and Pensions Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 4, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535093/dmgch21.pdf

You can have up to 28 days to start a job

Usually jobseekers who are carers must be ready to start a job if they are given seven days’ notice. Single parents can ask for up to 28 days’ notice if it would be unreasonable to start sooner due to your caring responsibilities.

You may need to explain why you cannot start work immediately and take action so that you can start work within 28 days. An example would be that you need to arrange childcare and find out about in-work benefits.

You must be willing to start work within 28 days or your jobseeker’s allowance may be stopped. If you are sanctioned and disagree with the decision you can request a reconsideration and apply for a hardship payment. See the Gingerbread factsheet Sanctions.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 5(1A) of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996

Paragraphs 21270 & 21271 in the Department for Work and Pensions Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 4, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535093/dmgch21.pdf

Your working hours

You may not have to look for full-time work

Usually, jobseekers have to be available for work for 40 hours a week. Single parents with a child under 16 can limit the hours they can work to below 40 a week to take account of your caring responsibilities.

You must be available to work for as many hours as your caring responsibilities allow, and it must be at least 16 hours a week. Ask your Jobcentre Plus adviser to record your agreed hours of work in your jobseeker’s agreement.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 13 of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996

Paragraph 21434 in the Department for Work and Pensions Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 4, available at www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/446093/dmgch21.pdf

You don’t need to have a reasonable chance of finding work within your restricted hours

If you limit your hours to less than 40 a week, you should not be penalised by Jobcentre Plus if there are no jobs available during those times.

You are still able to restrict your working hours to the times your caring responsibilities allow, even if there isn’t a reasonable chance of finding work within those hours. You must be available for at least 16 hours a week.

Make sure Jobcentre Plus puts any agreed restrictions in your jobseeker’s agreement.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 13(6) of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996

Paragraph 21437 in the Department for Work and Pensions Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 4, available at

www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/446093/dmgch21.pdf

If your child is under 13 you only have to work during their normal school hours

You can limit the hours you can work to your child’s normal school hours, but this is in term-time only. You may be expected to work longer hours during school holidays if there is appropriate and affordable childcare available. You may be expected to use childcare to cover your travel time to work.

This rule does not apply if you are home-educating your children.

If you limit your job search to the times your child is normally at school, you must still:

  • Be available to work for as many hours as your caring responsibilities allow during school hours
  • Be available to work at least 16 hours a week.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 13A of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996.

Paragraph 34331 in the Department for Work and Pensions Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 6, available at

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509890/dmgch34.pdf

How long it takes to travel to work

When deciding how far it is reasonable for single parents to travel to work, Jobcentre Plus should take into consideration your health and your caring responsibilities.

The maximum you can be asked to travel is 90 minutes each way.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 72 of the Jobseekers Allowance Regulations 1996

Paragraph 34261 of the Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 6, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509890/dmgch34.pdf

Problems with childcare

You do not have to follow an instruction if there is no childcare available

You do not have to take a job or follow an instruction given to you by Jobcentre Plus (for example to go on a training course or attend the jobcentre at short notice) if there is no affordable or appropriate childcare available

Jobcentre Plus needs to agree that there is no affordable or appropriate childcare available for you to use. This might involve considering what proportion of your wages or income would be spent on childcare.

You should make a reasonable effort to find appropriate childcare or your jobseeker’s allowance may be stopped. If you are sanctioned and disagree with the decision you can request a reconsideration and apply for a hardship payment if your jobseeker’s allowance is stopped. See our factsheet on sanctions.

For help finding childcare in your area, contact your local council or the Family Information Service at www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/findyourfis.

Where is this rule found?

Paragraphs 34331-34334 of the Decision Maker’s Guide Volume 6, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509890/dmgch34.pdf

If you leave a job because of childcare problems

If you left a job because there was no appropriate childcare available you should still be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance and your payments should not be stopped. This is also the case if you had to leave because your childcare was unaffordable.

Jobcentre Plus has to agree that there is no appropriate childcare available. When making their decision they should also consider whether any childcare that is available is suitable for the needs of your child.

If the issue was that the childcare was unaffordable, Jobcentre Plus must agree that the childcare costs were too high. They may look at what proportion of your wage was spent on childcare.

Where is this rule found?

Paragraphs 34331-34334 of the Decision Maker’s Guide Volume 6, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509890/dmgch34.pdf

When you don’t have to look for work

If your child is excluded from school

You are not required to look for work if your child has been excluded from school and it is not reasonably possible for you to arrange alternative childcare.

Your child must not be in alternative schooling provided by the local education authority.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 14 (1) (u) of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996

Paragraph 21353 in the Department for Work and Pensions Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 4, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535093/dmgch21.pdf

 

You have a parenting order or contract

If you have a parenting order or contract, you can restrict your availability for work as long as it is reasonable, depending on what the order or contract says you need to do.

Where is this rule found?

Regulation 13 (3A) (b) of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996

Paragraph 21440 in the Department for Work and Pensions Decision Maker’s Guide, volume 4, available at

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535093/dmgch21.pdf

You are dealing with a death, serious illness or other domestic emergency, involving a close relative or friend

This exemption can last between one and eight weeks, depending on how long it takes you to deal with the emergency.

You need to look after your child during the school holidays

You don’t have to look for work during the school holidays if you need to look after your child and it would be unreasonable for you to make other arrangements for their care.

It is up to Jobcentre Plus to agree that there are no other reasonable arrangements you could make. If you are sanctioned and disagree with the decision you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered, and apply for a hardship payment if your jobseeker’s allowance is stopped. See our factsheet on sanctions.

If you live in Scotland

Our partner organisation, One Parent Families Scotland, offers advice to single parents living in Scotland, on a wide range of issues.

One Parent Families Scotland

Universal credit

Universal credit is a new benefit system that is replacing many current benefits and tax credits, including jobseeker's allowance. Check our universal credit section for more information.

Information on universal credit Find out if you live in a universal credit area

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