Working Hard or Hardly Working? Examining the Politics of In-Work Conditionality in the UK

Joan Abbas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


The intensification of behavioural requirements and punitive measures in unemployment benefits by UK governments has been popular and instrumental to the politics of welfare reform. Yet there is scant research into the politics of extending this approach to working households, known as ‘in-work conditionality’ (IWC), which was introduced in the UK under Universal Credit in 2012. Addressing this gap, we examine the preferences of political parties and voters towards IWC, using data from an online survey of 1,111 adults in 2017, party manifestos and parliamentary debates. While we find evidence of a partisan split between voters and politicians on the left (oppose IWC) and right (support IWC), intra-party divides and the relative infancy of IWC suggests the politics of IWC is not set in stone. This helps to explain the blame avoidance strategies of current and previous Conservative governments responsible for IWC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-52
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number1
Early online date4 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023


  • Public attitudes
  • Universal Credit
  • deservingness
  • in-work conditionality
  • political parties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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