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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Universal credit administration  →  Thread

UC and earnings issues

sakhtar
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Welfare Rights, Govanhill Housing Association, Glasgow

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I have a lot of clients whose UC payments are incorrect due to earnings being declared to HMRC by employers not being accurate.

For example I had a client yesterday who I assisted to claim UC last month, got his first payment this month but there are earnings from two employers, one his current employer and one he stopped working for in Feb!  he has not received any payment from this previous employer since he stopped working for them and when I call UCSC they seem to be very reluctant to raise a RTI dispute until the claimant has gone and spoken to the employer.  UC say the employer needs to change what he has declared for them to be able to reassess the payment as its a false declaration - this is unlikely to happen as the claimant advised the company he worked for previously were ‘dodgy’ but I’ve written him a note to take down to see what they say and to then come back at which point UC said they would raise the RTI.

Have others noticed UC are reluctant to raise RTI disputes?  I work with a lot of EEA nationals who work for employers who don’t always declare earnings as they should so this leaves them in a bit of rubbish situation as its not there fault this is happening and its then impacting on them not being paid the correct amount.  I have tried the stance of it says in UC guidance that if the RTI info is incorrect then the info the claimant provides re earnings ie payslips/bank statements can be considered but they keep saying the HMRC info has been ‘verified’ whatever that means! 

Any advice on how I could tackle cases like this?

Jon (CHDCA)
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Welfare benefits - Craven CAB, North Yorkshire

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In the absence of an opinion from someone more versed than me..

I think it’s back to the basics of: every decision on every assessment period is a decision on entitlement, and the claimant can MR/appeal as appropriate, in the event they disagree with the decision. Getting MR requests to be treated as such obviously isn’t straightforward in UC-land, but it can be done. Resolving at the level of local JCP escalation is usually preferable, but the backstop of the tribunal system is there for a reason.

Timothy Seaside
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Housing services - Arun District Council

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Jon (CHDCA) - 13 November 2019 11:53 PM

In the absence of an opinion from someone more versed than me..

I think it’s back to the basics of: every decision on every assessment period is a decision on entitlement, and the claimant can MR/appeal as appropriate, in the event they disagree with the decision. Getting MR requests to be treated as such obviously isn’t straightforward in UC-land, but it can be done. Resolving at the level of local JCP escalation is usually preferable, but the backstop of the tribunal system is there for a reason.

I’m not sure this is correct. I think the RTI amount is not immediately subject to MR. I think you have two options: ask for a supersession of the decision awarding UC, and then MR that, or; ask for a decision under Reg 41(3) of the D&A Regs, and then MR that.

Given the responses people get when they raise RTI issues, I’d hazard a guess that most people working in UC are unaware of Reg 41(3).

Reg 41…
(3) Where the person disputes the figure used in accordance with regulation 55 (employed earnings) of the Universal Credit Regulations to calculate employed earnings in relation to any assessment period, the Secretary of State must—
(a) inform the person that they may request that the Secretary of State gives a decision in relation to the amount of universal credit payable in relation to that assessment period; and
(b) where such a decision is requested, give it within 14 days of receiving the request or as soon as practicable afterwards.

Charles
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Accountant, Haffner Hoff Ltd, Manchester

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I have mentioned the above before, but Elliot replied that in practice DWP do make fresh decisions each AP, and explicitly give MR and appeal rights each time.

From a legal point of view, for APs in which the amount of earnings changed from the previous AP, that practice is fine, because although the legislation allows the award to be changed without a fresh decision, there is nothing stopping a fresh decision being made. Where I am unsure is an AP in which the earnings and amount of the award have not changed: can DWP legally make a superseding decision which is precisely the same as the original decision?

Timothy Seaside
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Housing services - Arun District Council

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That’s not my experience in relation to RTI. Although there are some paragraphs at the bottom of each payment statement about how to challenge a decision, when you actually try to challenge an RTI amount they will say it’s not a decision. Sometimes they will tell you that you can start an RTI dispute (which is what they should do under Reg 41(3) as above), but often they will say there is nothing you (or they) can do.

As always, I can’t pretend my experience is statistically significant, and it’s true that I am dealing with only two contact centres for the jobcentre areas I cover, so these could be issues to do with training on a small scale.

Charles
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Accountant, Haffner Hoff Ltd, Manchester

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That’s interesting, although it doesn’t really make sense to me. Either it’s a decision or not! How can they differentiate depending on the grounds being relied on for the MR request?

Tara CAC
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Children's Centre Project: Citizens Advice Cornwall

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I’ve had similar issues where an employer made unauthorised deductions (for costs of a certificate he’d agreed to pay for) and UC used the net earnings (before that deduction) to calculate the award and essentially said she had to go to employment tribunal to get it amended if the employer wouldn’t.

I think what they mean by the ‘earnings information’ has been verified is the distinction between

Date entered as date paid
and
Date FPS report is sent

If the date entered as date paid is within the assessment the FPS report is sent they don’t see a discrepancy with the calculation whereas if the FPS report is sent late but the date entered as paid is in a previous assessment they can see the employer reported late.

If an employer sends an amended FPS (to correct the date entered as date paid) I’ve found UC will usually amend the award accordingly. Without the amended FPS report it’s just an ongoing battle. NHS staff nationwide had this issue as they are paid (I think) 21st of the month, when this fell on a weekend the NHS payroll would report as date paid the last working day before 21st. Despite this causing untold issues with monthly pays in an assessment they refused to correct the FPS and therefore UC refused to correct the award even though the employer had failed to report according to PAYE regulations