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
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 means tested
Contributory ESA is Non means
Taxable: There are two types of ESA:
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.
However, the amount of time it can be paid for will be
limited to 365 days (see the Turn2us changes to ESA May 2012 information
sheet 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
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 work.
People who have a terminal
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.
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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
- what level of support you are considered to need after the
first 13 weeks (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
£56.80. If you are a single person aged 25 and over, you can
get up to £71.70.
If you get income-related ESA, your income will be compared with
an amount the Government thinks is enough for you to live
on. 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 income-related ESA.
You can find out all the current
rates of ESA (link opens in a new window) from the
Government's GOV.UK website.
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 get.
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.
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
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Work Capability Assessment
The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the medical
test claimants for ESA have to take. It is in two parts:
- The first part assesses whether you have
limited capability for work. This is a
points-based assessment, based on the difficulties you have
carrying out a number of physical or mental tasks. You have to
score at least 15 points in order to qualify for ESA.
- The second part of the WCA is the limited capability for work-related
activity assessment. This assesses whether you will be expected
to undertake activities in order to prepare to return to work in
the future. Only people with a severe level of disability will pass
the limited Capability for Work-Related Activity test.
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 from the
Department for Work and Pensions.
- If you have 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 not put in the support group.
Changes to the Work Capability Assessment
From 28 January, some changes have been made to WCA to clarify
- A person with cancer receiving or recovering from chemotherapy
or radiotherapy, or likely to receive chemotherapy or radiotherapy
within the next six months, can be treated as having both limited
capability for work and limited capability for work-related
- A person undergoing medical or other treatment in a hospital or
similar institution, which requires staying for a period of 24
hours or longer following that treatment, can be treated as having
limited capability for work
- The exceptional circumstances rules for limited capability for
work will not apply if the risk could be significantly reduced by
reasonable adjustments being made to the claimant’s workplace
or the claimant taking medication prescribed by
their GP to manage their condition.
There are also changes to the activities and
descriptors (identifying labels) in the WCA. There is a full
list of these changes in the appendix of the guidance note
for Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision
makers, memo 1/13 (link opens in a new window, PDF 86.5kb).
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What documents will I need?
You have to provide:
- medical evidence of your condition
- evidence of who you are, for example, a driving licence or
- your national insurance number and the national insurance
number of your partner if you are claiming income-related ESA. If
you do not have a national insurance number, you should be
given one when you make your claim.
Can ESA 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. It does not matter why your claim is late.
Request this when claiming
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Sanctions for people in the work-related group of ESA
There have been a number of changes to the conditions you have
to meet in order to remain entitled to receive ESA and the
penalties that can be imposed if you do not meet those
These rules do not apply to you if you are placed in the support
These amendments are part of the preparation for Universal Credit which will bring together the
main working age benefits and introduce common rules about
conditionality and the sanctions that may be applied if you fail to
carry out a required action.
Fore more information, see our ESA
sanctions information sheet.
Please note: No sanctions should be imposed in ESA if you can
show good cause for your action that led to the sanction being
considered. All decisions to apply a sanction are able to be
appealed if you disagree.
If you disagree with the decision made on your benefit claim you
can ask for a written statement of reasons. If you still believe
the decision is wrong, for example due to incorrect information
being used, you can ask for it to be looked at again, and/or
The time limits are strict, you will usually be given one
month to dispute a decision, so it is important to seek advice and
Further information on Challenges and
Change of circumstance
You must report changes in your circumstances
which might affect your entitlement to this benefit
See the Turn2us changes to ESA May 2012 information
sheet for more information
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
benefit cap which will be introduced from April
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Last updated: 8 April 2013