New Universal Credit AET Threshold Could Affect 114,000 Claimants

Universal Credit

Amendments to the universal credit rules introduced this month could see many thousands forced to boost their income or find work to retain their benefit payments.

Current estimates indicate that around six million people in the UK are currently claiming universal credit, as the escalating living-cost crisis threatens millions with the looming risk of fuel poverty.

Within universal credit legislation, the administration earnings threshold (AET) means that claimants who earn nothing or have earnings below a specific threshold are automatically added to the intensive work search regime. Those concerned are required to attend regular face-to-face meetings for job search purposes and are placed under extensive pressure to apply for jobs.

By contrast, claimants who earn in excess of the AET threshold are bracketed in a “light-touch” category, where payments are received alongside their employment and there is little to no immediate pressure to seek higher-paying jobs.

On September 26, the current AET threshold of £355 per month will increase to £494 per month, almost £150 higher. Likewise, the AET for couples claiming together will increase from £567 to £782.

Early indications suggest that approximately 114,000 people will subsequently fall below this new AET threshold and will be subject to the same strict rules and regulations in relation to finding work. If these rules and regulations are not satisfied, AET payments may be withdrawn entirely.

Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey was quoted by the Liverpool Echo as having said that the alterations to the regulations will “help claimants get quickly back into the world of work while helping ensure employers get the people they and the economy need.”

Elsewhere, a spokesperson from the DWP said that the AET rule was long overdue and needed an important update.

Since its introduction in 2013, the AET has not kept pace with the increases in the National Living Wage, with the result that the number of hours needed to work to earn the AET has fallen over time,” read an extract from the statement.

“The adjustment will bring the AET back to its original ‘parity’ with the National Living Wage.”

Claimants who are affected by the new AET threshold will be automatically transitioned to the more intensive work search regime. This means being required to attend mandatory work search reviews at a local job centre, which take place either on a weekly or monthly basis.

Evidence will need to be provided at such meetings that the claimant in question is actively looking for work and spending at least 35 hours a week engaged in work-related activities. However, those with caring responsibilities or health conditions will be subject to different rules.

The DWP has stated that it will be contacting those affected by the changes directly.