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Job Seekers Allowance Survival Guide
intro l leaving work & signing on l job refusal l restarts/interviews l feedback/help


Fortnightly signing
Job Seekers Direction


Fortnightly signing can be used to test your "availability for / actively seeking work" status.

It is possible that Job Centres will refuse to let you sign on if you don't have your JSA / UB40 card and proof of your job seeking activity - this is usually in the shape of a little booklet laid out like a diary. You can use your own sheet of paper instead. Legally all you have to do is show that you are actively seeking work. But it might be easier (and costs the government more) if you just fill up their forms.

The important thing to remember is the definition of actively seeking work - you should include all job seeking activity, not just applications. Stand your ground if they say that only paper applications count - they're lying. If you just want a hassle-free existence, you could apply in writing or by phone for at least one job a week.

Because one of the aims of JSA is to monitor people more closely, the people signing you on will take more interest in what you're up to. If they want to give you a hard time they may offer you a "Notified Vacancy" (see Can I Refuse to Apply for a Job?) or refer you to an Employment Service interview where a Job Seekers Direction can be issued. Signing clerks cannot issue Directions but they can offer you a "Notified Vacancy".

Hopefully it won't happen, but if the signing clerk thinks your "job search" is inadequate they could refer you to an immediate interview with an E.S. Adviser. If that person agrees with the signing clerk they can immediately suspend your benefit and you won't get a giro. Your case gets referred to an Adjudication Officer for a final decision. You should appeal against any decision they make. You should sign on as usual the next fortnight and, provided you have sufficient evidence of "job-seeking", you will receive payment as usual.

Failure to sign on or attend interviews - if you don't turn up to sign on or to an Employment Service Interview your benefit will be cut off unless you visit the Job Centre within 5 working days and show that you had good cause - eg., because of misunderstanding due to language difficulties, misinformation by E.S. staff; attending a medical or dental appointment; attending a job interview; difficulties with transport and no alternative available, etc.



The Job Seekers Direction is one of the new features of the JSA (although it carries forward and extends an old power known as an "Official Recommendation"). It can be issued even if you met the "actively seeking work requirement".

The Direction is "a direction in writing given by an [ES adviser] with a view to ... assisting you to find employment [and/or] improving your prospect of being employed". It is used where they suspect that you're not trying hard enough! In practice they will use them at Restarts or, occasionally, at extra Employment Service Interviews - after trying to persuade you to do what they want voluntarily. An ordinary signing clerk cannot issue a Direction.

Like the old Official Recommendations it can be used to get you to:

Apply for a specific vacancy, advertised through the Job Centre or in the local press. See CAN I REFUSE TO APPLY FOR A JOB?

Approach one or more named employers on a single site - provided they are within a specific industry or trade.

Prepare a CV and submit it to a number of named employers

Register with a named employment agency - see "EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES"

Attend an interview at a given time at a local ES office in connection with an existing vacancy

The Job Seekers Direction cannot be general, e.g. apply for 10 jobs this week. A requirement like that would have to form part of the Job Seekers Agreement. So the Direction must be specific - a particular job or course of action, written and specific, to include information like details of particular jobs, names & addresses of employers / agencies referred to, guidance on methods to be used in applying for vacancies or approaching employers, and the date by which the recommendation should be carried out.

The Employment Service intend to use the Direction to instruct people to apply for jobs of less than 24 hours pw. This is because they can use the "Notified Vacancy" system for jobs offering more than 24 hours pw, and the penalties for refusal are much higher. If you are ordered to apply for a part time job and you refuse you will face the penalty for refusing to obey a Direction - but you don't have to accept the job if it is offered to you. See CAN I REFUSE TO APPLY FOR A JOB?

Another new feature of the Job Seekers Direction is the bit about "improving your employment prospects". This can be used to:

Order you on to a so-called voluntary training scheme

Order you to make yourself presentable to employers - in terms of clothes, hairstyle, jewelry etc. No one knows exactly how they will use this. It is one of the most offensive bits of the new law.

If you refuse to carry out a Direction you face a sanction of between 2 - 4 weeks without benefit. See PENALTIES. When they give you a Direction they MUST warn you that refusal to comply will be punished. If they don't you can complain / appeal.

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