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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): Permitted Work - Permitted Work (Employment and Support Allowance (ESA))

Find out more about Permitted Work under Employment and Support Allowance.

Permitted Work (Employment and Support Allowance (ESA))

The general rule is that you can’t work while claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (or the incapacity benefits ESA replaces). However, there are exceptions and some kinds of 'permitted work' that are allowed.


The following kinds of work are allowed:

  • Work as a councillor

  • Work as a member of a First Tier Tribunal (up to one full day or two half days a week)

  • The care of a relative or another person living with you

  • Work done while pursuing self-employment (in certain cases where assistance is received)

  • Voluntary work (not for a relative)

  • Unpaid work experience approved by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

'Permitted work'

‘Permitted work’ is also allowed. In some cases, this can be any type of work and you can do this for an unlimited period of time but there are limitations on your earnings and hours. You must tell the DWP in advance if you want to do permitted work. You can do this by calling the ESA helpline on 0800 169 0310 or by downloading and filling in the permitted work form. When you have completed the form, you can take it to your local Jobcentre.

Permitted work includes:

  • Any work as long as you work for less than 16 hours a week (average) and do not earn more than £152.00 a week (the permitted work higher limit) and have completed a permitted work form and submitted it to your local Jobcentre.
  • Work as part of a treatment programme under medical supervision while in hospital or attending hospital - as long as you don’t earn more than £152.00 a week
  • Any work, for an unlimited period, as long as you don’t earn more than £20 a week (the permitted work lower limits)
  • Supported work (supervised by someone employed to find work for disabled people), for an unlimited period, provided you do not earn more than £152.00 a week.

If you were to earn more than the limit in any one week, you would not be entitled to ESA for that week.

If you would like to find out more about what counts as permitted work and the restrictions that apply regarding hours and earnings, you can read the Disability Rights UK Factsheet: Work for people living with disability or health conditions.

Updated: April 2022

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