Home | Browse Topics | Jobs, benefits & flats | Dealing with Work and Income | Trouble with Work and Income: Penalties, investigations and overpayments

Jobs, benefits & flats

Trouble with Work and Income: Penalties, investigations and overpayments


What penalties (sanctions) can be imposed?

Social Security Act 2018, ss 236–239, 244, 253

This will depend on whether you’ve been sanctioned before, and if so, how many times:

  • First sanction – The first time, your main benefit will be cut by 50 percent until you meet your obligations (“re-comply”). If you haven’t re-complied within four weeks after your benefit was cut, it will be cut entirely until you do re-comply.
  • Second sanction – If you’re sanctioned a second time (after you re-complied following a first sanction), your main benefit will be suspended entirely (cut by 100 percent) until you re-comply.
  • Third sanction – If you’re sanctioned a third time (after you re-complied following a second sanction), your main benefit will be cancelled, and you’ll need to re-apply for the benefit. You won’t be able to re-apply until 13 weeks after the cancellation, and when you re-apply you’ll face tougher eligibility criteria than when you were originally granted the benefit.

If you’re a teenager getting the Youth Payment or the Young Parent Payment, there are some specific penalties if you don’t meet your obligations: see “Sanctions (penalties) if you don’t meet your obligations” under “Qualifying for the Youth Payment”, and see “Sanctions (penalties) if you don‘t meet your obligations” under “Teenage parents (Young Parent Payment”).

Did this answer your question?

Dealing with Work and Income

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may be able to provide ongoing support.

Work and Income


Phone: 0800 559 009

This website contains information about who qualifies for the different benefits and payments and how to apply for them.

Benefit rates

For information about the benefit rates that apply from 1 April 2021, visit:


Beneficiary advocacy groups

There’s likely to be an advocacy group for beneficiaries in your area. Look for them online. If you’re not able to find one, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (see below).

Auckland Action Against Poverty


Phone: (09) 634 0591

AAAP provides a free advocacy service for people dealing with Work and Income. They have also published a 30-page “Beneficiary Rights Booklet”, which you can download from their ‘Resources’ page.

Address: 120 Church St, Onehunga, Auckland 1061
Email: advocates@aaap.org.nz

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone: 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222)

Every Citizens Advice Bureau has volunteers who can provide information, particularly on where to access beneficiary advocacy services.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top