New jobseekers will have to sign a commitment from today setting out their efforts to find work to receive their benefit.
The so-called Claimant Commitment is being introduced in around 100 jobcentres a month, including the risk of losing benefits for anyone failing to meet requirements.
Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "The Claimant Commitment marks the start of a redefinition of the relationship between the welfare state and claimants. In return for state support, we expect claimants to do all they can to meet their responsibilities to return to work.
"It also strengthens the ability of Jobcentre Plus staff to support claimants back into work at the earliest opportunity.
"Work coaches and jobseekers will agree regular specific tasks and training opportunities and the penalties claimants could face for failing to meet their responsibilities to get into work will be clearly spelt out."