Universal Credit: Wages

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 7th October 2019.

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Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that universal credit claimants who receive two regular wage payments in the same review period are not penalised.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Universal credit takes earnings into account in a way that is fair and transparent. The amount of universal credit paid reflects as closely as possible the actual circumstances of a household during each monthly assessment period, including any earnings reported by the employer during the assessment period, regardless of when they were paid.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

Does my hon. Friend have any plans to introduce a mechanism to universal credit that allows claimants to move their review date?

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As I said, monthly assessment periods align to the way that the majority of employees are paid and allow universal credit to be adjusted each month, which means that, if a claimant’s income falls, they will not have to wait several months for a rise in their UC. We have produced guidance to help to ensure that claimants, staff and representatives are aware of the importance of reporting accurate dates and the impact on payment cycles. I am conscious that my hon. Friend has written to me. I would be happy to meet him and my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake, who also raised that issue.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have received unexpected pay—for example, holiday pay—during the assessment period. Because that pay is unexpected, it impacts on the amount of universal credit that they are awarded. What work is the Minister doing to ensure that unexpected pay, like holiday pay, will not severely impact their award?

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As I have said, the amount of UC paid to claimants reflects as closely as possible the actual circumstances of a household during each monthly assessment period, and those periods align to the way that the majority of employees are paid. I recognise the issue. I have said that I am happy to meet two other colleagues, and I would be happy to also meet the hon. Lady.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

I raised this issue with the Secretary of State’s predecessor in the run-up to Christmas last year because many enlightened employers will pay their staff early in December so they can afford Christmas. She told me it was fixed. However, I was phoned last week on my 24-hour helpline by a constituent who, because her partner was paid on the 28th of the month the previous month and on the 27th of the month subsequently, it appeared—to the computer at least—that they had had a 100% pay rise, and her benefit was cut to £11. Can we fix this, particularly before Christmas this year?

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The simple answer to my right hon. Friend is yes, I am looking at ways in which we can do this. It is important to put this in context: UC replaces the outdated and complex benefits system, which too often stifled people’s potential, creating cliff edges at 16, 24 and 30 hours and punitive effective tax rates, of over 90% for some, punishing people for doing the right thing. UC seeks to take earnings into account in a way that is fair and transparent, and we want to preserve this simplicity as far as is possible.