Mandatory work activity (a guide)

In this article, we talked about the Mandatory Work Activity. We provided you with a guide to mandatory work activity that can help claimants develop the skills and experience they need to get a job.

What is the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA)? 

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You may be referred to an MWA if your Jobcentre Plus work coach thinks you’ll benefit from the additional support of a short work placement.

The aim is to help you develop the skills and behaviors employers are looking for and to help you get into the habit of attending work on time and every day. 

You will be referred to an organization called a provider that will find you a work placement or a series of placements for up to 30 hours per week.

The hours you need to attend will reflect any restrictions on your claimant commitment.

You’ll need to attend the placement for four consecutive weeks. 

You may be referred to MWA if you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit (UC) (and expected to look for work). 

What kind of work will I be doing?

All work placements must benefit the local or wider community. Organizations can’t use placements to fill existing or expected vacancies for paid work. 

You could be placed in a variety of roles within the voluntary and community sector.

You could also do a placement in the private sector, but your role will directly benefit the community.

Placements may include:

 • work for an organization which is regenerating, renovating or restoring public areas, buildings, houses, and amenities; promoting or supporting recycling or energy efficiency and conservation 

• work for a charity 

• working on a project to improve access to opportunities for vulnerable or marginalized groups, or to encourage or promote understanding between different communities and/or generations. 

How long does MWA last? 

You’ll be expected to participate for up to 30 hours per week over four consecutive weeks, while also fulfilling your claimant commitment obligations.

The hours of attendance will reflect any restrictions in your claimant commitment. 

Will I still be expected to search for permanent employment when doing MWA? 

Yes. You’ll need to continue attending job search reviews, any other meetings at the Jobcentre, and be available for and actively looking for work.

However, your work coach will take into account the amount of time you spend participating in and traveling to your placement when reviewing your work search. You must meet all of the usual conditions to get JSA or UC. 

Will I earn a wage for doing a MWA?

No. However, you’ll continue to receive your JSA or UC benefit whilst on the placement.

You should never be financially worse off because you attend a placement.

 Therefore, providers will:

 • meet travel costs for attending the placements and meetings with the provider, and help with childcare costs if this is required to attend the placement

 • assess and meet, where appropriate, other costs you may need help with to participate fully in the placement (e.g for appropriate clothing or specialist equipment). 

You’ll still be responsible for paying travel costs to attend your Jobsearch reviews.

If you need help with travel expenses to go to a job interview, you may be able to access the Flexible Support Fund. 

You should speak to your JCP work coach to discuss this before you travel. 

What happens if I don’t complete my MWA? 

If you fail to attend or fully participate in your MWA work placement(s) without good reason, then you could have your benefit stopped (sanctioned).

 Can I appeal against a sanction?

 Yes. If you think this decision is wrong, you can appeal within one month of your benefit being stopped.

Explain why you think the decision is wrong and provide as much information and evidence as you can to support your reasons for not attending or participating fully in the placement. 

The decision will be looked at again by a DWP decision-maker, rather than your work coach or employment scheme provider.

If you still disagree, you can appeal to a Tribunal.

If your benefit payment is stopped, and you don’t have enough money to live on, you may be able to get a hardship payment. 

Is MWA displacing people from jobs by providing ‘slave labor’ to employers? 

No. MWA is not slave labor and does not displace people from jobs.

All placements benefit the community and can’t be used to fill existing or expected vacancies for paid work.

MWA is a supportive scheme designed to help claimants develop employable skills and behaviors. 

A brief outline of the policy of Mandatory Work Activity

The support that Jobcentre Plus delivers to customers across all working-age benefits (Jobseekers Allowance, Employment, and Support Allowance and Income Support) has changed from April 2011.

This change gave more flexibility to Jobcentre Plus managers and advisers to judge which interventions will help individual customers most cost-effectively, choosing from a menu of support to help customers according to their individual needs, rather than focus on the process.

Included in this menu of support is Mandatory Work Activity. 

Jobcentre Plus advisers have identified a small number of Jobseeker’s Allowance customers who have little or no understanding of what behaviors are required to obtain and keep work. 

Mandatory Work Activity has been introduced from April 2011 to address the barriers to obtaining and retaining work demonstrated by this group.

The aim is to help customers discover for themselves the expectations of work including attending on time and every day, following instructions, and working in teams.

Advisers will be able to require that a customer takes part in the program, encouraging customers to develop the crucial disciplines associated with employment, while at the same time making a contribution to their community.

With all referrals to Mandatory Work Activity, there are certain safeguards to ensure that the referral is appropriate.

Guidance issued to Jobcentre Plus Advisers will set out what factors should be considered when making a referral. 

As an additional safeguard, it will form part of our ‘best practice’ guidance that once a Personal Adviser has identified that a customer may be suitable for Mandatory Work Activity, they will be encouraged to discuss the appropriateness of the referral with their Adviser Manager.

This meeting will discuss their reasons for referring to this customer, and the Adviser Manager will take the decision whether to approve the referral. 

Customers will be required to participate in placements for up to 30 hours a week, for 4 weeks. 

Mandatory Work Activity will be delivered by a contracted specialist back to work providers.

Only a small number of customers will be referred to Mandatory Work Activity; providers are expected to deliver around 10,000 places annually.

Referrals to Mandatory Work Activity can be made at any point of a claim when the customer is supported by Jobcentre Plus, but it is expected that Mandatory Work Activity participants will normally have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for 13 weeks or more. 

Participation in Mandatory Work Activity will be compulsory and customers who fail to participate/fail to complete/or lose a place due to misconduct will be sanctioned for 13 weeks.

A second failure in a 12 month period will lead to a 26-week sanction. 

While customers are undertaking a Mandatory Work Activity, they will continue to be subject to the conditions of receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance i.e. job seekers will be expected to take steps to actively seek employment, and to be available to take up employment if they find it. 

 Jobseekers will continue to have to demonstrate this when attending Fortnightly Job search Reviews during their Mandatory Work Activity.

They will also remain subject to the usual sanctions for a breach of either of these conditions, even if they continue to attend and participate fully in their Mandatory Work Activity. 

The nature of activities to be undertaken will need to accommodate any recognized restrictions a customer has, such as due to disability or a restriction on the hours a customer can participate.

Jobcentre Plus will notify delivery organizations of such restriction, although this will not necessitate sharing a customer’s Jobseeker’s Agreement. 

Placements will not be sourced in areas of work where a CRB check is required. 

 Jobcentre Plus will be responsible for identifying and referring those customers who would most benefit from the support offered through Mandatory Work Activity.

The Department will provide clear guidance to advisers on referrals, and will closely monitor them.

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In this article, we talked about the Mandatory Work Activity.

We provided you with a guide to mandatory work activity that can help claimants develop the skills and experience they need to get a job.

Mandatory work activity aims to help claimants:

  • develop the skills and behaviors employers are looking for
  • get into the habit of attending work on time and every day.

Please feel free to comment on the content or leave your questions in the comments section below. 

FAQ about Mandatory Work Activity

How are MWAs delivered? 

MWAs are delivered by contracted providers, who work with a range of organizations to source placements of community benefit across a range of employment sectors. 

How many people have been referred to MWA?

Between May 2011 and August 2014, 251,200 referrals were made to Mandatory Work Activity.

Was MWA extended passed 31 March 2015?

Yes. MWA was extended and the contracts with the providers were renewed.

Does my religion mater with MWA?

All participants on Mandatory Work Activity will be treated fairly and equally regardless of their religion or beliefs.

They will not be asked to undertake any activity which goes against their beliefs and allowances will be made wherever possible to reflect religious holidays and practices.

Does my sexual orientation matter with MWA?

All participants on Mandatory Work Activity will be treated fairly and equally regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

The Department will clearly communicate to advisers that all referrals are made on the basis of suitability for the scheme. 

What age are the people in the MWA group?

Relatively more jobseekers aged 25 and over are in the Mandatory Work Activity proxy group than reach three, six or 12 months unemployed.

Customers aged 18-24 leave benefits faster than those over the age of 25. 


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Mandatory Work Activity – Equality Impact Assessment 

Mandatory Work Activity –

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