Bonuses are earnings and are treated in the same way as any other earnings in calculating universal credit awards, reflecting HMRC guidance and ensuring fairness across the working population, many of whom do not claim welfare. UC is more generous than the legacy benefits that it replaces. The Government have already made significant investment to increase universal credit’s generosity by cutting the taper rate to 63% in 2017, with an extra £1.7 billion a year put into work allowances by 2023-24.
My constituent, a key worker in a pharmacy, received a one-off bonus of £120 for her efforts supporting vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic. That reward for hard work was eroded when £172.69 was subsequently deducted from her monthly universal credit payments. Does the Minister agree that that is no way to treat people who have stepped up to support us all during these difficult times? Will he consider temporary changes to the work allowances and taper rate to enable key workers to receive these bonuses in full?
I want to thank all the key workers across our country who have done so much during the pandemic. Universal credit makes sure that people are always better off in work. Under the legacy benefits system, claimants would not have kept all their bonuses; in fact, in many cases, the legacy withdrawal rate could be as high as 91% for each additional £1 earned, compared with a maximum of 75% under universal credit.