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Communtity Law Manual | Work & Income | Penalties (“Sanctions”)

Trouble with Work and Income: Penalties, investigations and overpayments

Penalties (“Sanctions”)

What is a “sanction”?

A “sanction” is where Work and Income reduces or cancels your main benefit because it believes you haven’t complied with your obligations, such as work-test requirements or your “social obligations” as a parent.

The process that Work and Income must follow

Social Security Act 2018, ss 252 – 254, 256

Work and Income must follow a set process when imposing sanctions. This includes:

  • notifying you in writing, at least five working days before they take the particular action
  • if it’s your first or second sanction, giving you the opportunity to meet your obligations (“re-comply”) before they impose the sanction on you.

Outstanding arrest warrants: Power to cut benefits

Social Security Act 2018, ss 209–216

Work and Income also has the power to stop your benefit if you have an outstanding arrest warrant. There are two ways this can happen, depending on whether the police see you as a public risk:

  • No public risk – If a warrant for your arrest is still outstanding 28 days after it was issued, Work and Income will be informed. Work and Income will then notify you, giving you 10 working days to resolve the situation (for example, if you’re not in fact the person named in the warrant) or else your benefit will be stopped.
  • Risk to public safety – If the police tell Work and Income that they believe you are a risk to public safety, Work and Income can stop your benefit immediately, without having to notify you in advance. The police officer who signs the written request to Work and Income must be at the level of inspector or higher.

If you have a dependent child, however, your benefit will only be cut by half, not stopped completely.

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