Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is money for people who
have limited capability for work because of their sickness or
disability but do not get Statutory Sick Pay
Applies to: England, Wales, Scotland and
Age rules: You must be 16 or over and under
state pension age
Type of benefit: There are two types of
- Income-related ESA is not taxable
- Contributory ESA is taxable
Administered by: JobCentre Plus
You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to
the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:
Who does it help?
There are two sorts of Employment and Support Allowance
- contributory ESA, which you can get if you
have paid enough national insurance
contributions. The amount of time it can be paid for is
limited to 365 days in England, Scotland and Wales if you are
in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) see ESA time limit for more information
- income-related ESA, which you can get if your
income and savings are low enough. You can't get any income-related
ESA if you have savings of more than £16,000.
You may be able to get one or both types of
ESA depending on your circumstances.
For both types of ESA, you will usually have
to have assessments to prove you have limited capability for
People who have a terminal illness
If you have a terminal illness, there are
special rules. You can get ESA from the first day of sickness and
will not have to score points in a medical examination. You will
get ESA with a support component from the start of your claim.
How much does it pay?
The amount of ESA you can get depends on different factors:
- whether you are getting contributory ESA or income-related ESA
- whether you are in the first 13 weeks of a claim (assessment
period) - this can take longer than 13 weeks in some cases
- what level of support you are considered to need after
the assessment period (main phase)
- whether you are aged 25 or over
- whether you live with a partner.
For example, for contributory ESA, if you are a single person
under 25, in the first 13 weeks of a claim, you can get up to
£57.35. If you are a single person aged 25 and over, you can get up
If you get income-related ESA, your income will be compared with
an amount the Government thinks is enough for you to live on,
including help with housing costs if you are a homeowner. If your
income is less than this amount, you will get the difference. If
your income is equal to or more than this amount, you won't get
You can find out all the current
rates of ESA (link opens in a new window) from the Government's
If you are getting income-related ESA and you
have a mortgage, you could also get some
help with your housing costs. If you are in rented property you
could get the maximum amount of
Housing Benefit for your situation.
If you receive contributory ESA (after the
assessment phase) you also qualify for a £10 Christmas Bonus each
year. You do not need to make a claim for the bonus it is paid
automatically. It does not affect any other benefits you might
Back to top
Cold Weather Payment
If you are responsible for a child under five, or receive one of
the following amounts with your income-related ESA, you also
qualify for a Cold Weather Payment of £25 if the average
temperature where you live falls to zero degrees Celsius or below
for seven days in a row:
- Work-related Activity component
- Support component
- Severe Disability
- Enhanced Disability
You may also qualify if you are getting
Child Tax Credit with the disability or severe disability
element alongside your ESA.
You do not need to make a claim as the payment will be made
automatically for each week of cold weather.
Back to top
How do I make a claim?
Phone Jobcentre Plus:
Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Welsh language line: 0800 012 1888
claim form from the Gov.UK website (link opens in a new
In Northern Ireland
Telephone: 0800 085 6318
Textphone: 0800 328 3419
a claim form from the NI Direct website (link opens in a new
Back to top
Can Employment and Support Allowance be backdated?
Employment and Support Allowance can be backdated for up to
three months before the date of claim if you would have been
entitled to it earlier, for example you have had a health condition
that meant you were unable to work. You will be asked to provide a
medical certificate to show this. It does not matter why your claim
is late. Request backdating when you make your claim.
Back to top
Work Capability Assessment
Following your initial claim for ESA, in
most cases, you will be paid the assessment phase rate
whilst a medical test called the Work Capability
Assessment (WCA) is carried out to see if you are entitled to keep
getting ESA. This is supposed to take place within 13 weeks but can
The WCA looks at what difficulties you
have carrying out a number of physical or mental tasks and
involves a questionnaire and a face-to-face
The questionnaire is called an ESA50 and is sent by Jobcentre
Plus to every ESA claimant to complete and send back.
See: How to complete the Limited
Capability for Work Questionnaire
Once your questionnaire is returned, you will, in most cases, be
invited to attend a face-to-face medical assessment carried out by
a health care professional who will make a report for DWP.
The DWP Decision Maker will then decide, based on your
questionnaire and the report from the health care professional,
whether you have scored at least 15 points and therefore
capability for work and can continue to receive ESA. If
you have scored less than 15 points you will be found capable
of work and your ESA claim will end.
If you are found to have limited capability for work, the
limited capability for work-related activity
assessment will then find out whether you will
be expected to do activities while on ESA to prepare to return
to work in the future, or if you are not expected to be able to
return to work.
Work-Related Activity Group and Support Group
If you have limited capability for work, but do not have limited
capability for work-related activity, you will be put in the
Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) . You will receive the basic
rate of ESA plus an extra amount called the work-related activity
component. You will also have to attend a series of work-focused
interviews with a personal adviser at your local Jobcentre.
If you have limited capability for work, and limited capability
for work-related activity, you will be put in the Support Group.
You will receive the basic rate of ESA plus an extra amount called
the support component. If you are in the support group you will not
be asked to attend work-focused interviews.
Back to top
Sanctions for people in the Work-Related Activity Group
There are conditions you have to meet in order to remain
entitled to receive ESA and penalties that can be imposed if you do
not meet those conditions.
These rules do not apply to you if you are placed in the support
For more information, see our ESA
sanctions information sheet.
Please note: No sanctions should be imposed in ESA if you can
show good cause for the action that led to the sanction being
considered. All decisions to apply a sanction can be appealed if
Back to top
The Decision Maker’s decision letter should contain a summary of
the findings of the Health Care Professional, and a summary of the
points you scored in the Work Capability Assessment.
If you believe the decision is wrong, for example due to
incorrect information being used, you can challenge the
The time limits are strict, you will usually be given one month
to dispute a decision, so it is important to seek advice and act
Challenging an ESA decision in England,
Scotland and Wales
Challenging an ESA decision in Northern
Back to top
Change of circumstance
You must report changes in your circumstances
which might affect your entitlement to this benefit. Failure to do
this may lead to an over payment which will need to be repaid.
Benefits cap and Employment and Support Allowance
If you or your partner receive the Support Component of
Employment and Support Allowance, you will be exempt from the
Back to top
Last updated: 7 April 2014