A "fundamental flaw" could inflict hardship on working Universal Credit claimants this Christmas, an advice charity has warned.
Advice NI has said employees who are paid early could be affected as they may be treated as receiving two monthly wages in one assessment period, resulting in them being awarded reduced or no Universal Credit payments.
The charity said this is a "fundamental flaw" which "could inflict hardship on claimants and cause further damage in terms of public confidence in the system", reports the Manchester Evening News.
Speaking about the flaw, chief executive of Advice NI, Bob Stronge, said: "Government says it’s all about work, making work pay and that Universal Credit will help make sure people are better off in work.
"However, we are highlighting a fundamental flaw which could inflict hardship on claimants and undermine public confidence in Universal Credit."
He continued: "Universal Credit assessment periods run for a calendar month, so, for example, if a UC claimant has an assessment period which runs from the 25th to the 24th, they will in fact find that they have received two monthly wages in this assessment period (November 29 and December 20) and so may receive little or no Universal Credit at Christmas.
"While there may be months with no wage packet and other months with one wage packet, which will lead to an increased Universal Credit award, Advice NI believes this issue will undoubtedly lead to claimants having a lack of certainty about finances and will cause distress and hardship for some at Christmas."
However, there is a way around the problem.
HMRC has to send monthly salary information to Universal Credit, so if your boss pays you early but says you were paid on the normal date, the problem will be removed.
Speaking to Belfast Live, a spokesman for the Department of Communities, said: "Universal Credit is paid twice monthly in arrears, and is calculated using assessment periods.
"An assessment period is a period of one month and any income received within that month is used in the calculation of a customer’s Universal Credit entitlement.
"Where two sets of earnings are received in one month a customer will receive less benefit to reflect this.
"However, customers will then receive an increase in Universal Credit in those months where no earnings are received.
"This is not a system flaw and is part of the design and build of Universal Credit."