You are now leaving the Turn2us site. Turn2us is not responsible for content on third party sites.


Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance is money for people who have limited capability for work because of their sickness or disability but do not get Statutory Sick Pay. There are two types: income-related Employment and Support Allowance and contributory Employment and Support Allowance

1. What is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

Employment and Support Allowance is money for people who have limited capability for work because of their sickness or disability but do not get Statutory Sick Pay.

There are two types:

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • contributory / New Style Employment and Support Allowance

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance is replaced by Universal Credit. Please go to the 'Can I get Employment and Support Allowance?' page of this guide for information on who can still claim.

Applies to: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Age rules: You must be 16 or over and under state pension age.

Type of benefit:

Income-related ESA is means tested

Contributory ESA is non means tested

Taxable:

Income-related ESA is not taxable
Contributory ESA is taxable

Administered by: JobCentre Plus, Department for Work and Pensions

 

Updated: December 2018

2. Can I get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

You may be able to get one or both types of Employment and Support Allowance depending on your circumstances.

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance is being replaced by Universal Credit.  You will only be able to make a new claim for Income-related Employment and Support Allowance in the situations listed below.  If you or your partner are receiving a 'legacy benefit' such as Child Tax Credit or Housing Benefit, you will lose these if you make a claim for Universal Credit. 

You can find out whether you can make a claim for Income-related ESA by using our Benefits Calculator or by seeking advice.  You can find an advice agency in your area by using our Find-an-adviser tool.   Read more about Universal Credit on our website.

You can still get Income-related Employment and Support Allowance  in one of the following situations:

In addition:

  • Your income is low enough and,
  • Your savings and capital are below £16,000 and,
  • You have limited capability for work

You can only get ESA whilst you are working if your work is "permitted work". You can read more about what counts as permitted work in our Permitted Work guide.

Contributory / New Style Employment and Support Allowance

You can get contributory ESA if you:

You can only get ESA whilst you are working if your work is "permitted work". You can read more about what counts as permitted work in our Permitted Work guide.

Contribution-based ESA can be paid with Income-related ESA if you qualify for both.  If you qualify for Universal Credit instead of Income-related ESA, you can get Contribution-based ESA at the same time as Universal Credit.

A new claim for Contribution-based ESA is also known as a new claim for New-style Employment and Support Allowance.

Work Capability Assessment

When you claim ESA, you will have to show that you have limited capability for work, The Work Capability Assessment is used to decide whether you have limited capability for work. 

The Work Capability Assessment usually happens within the first 13 weeks of your ESA claim and is made up of two parts:

  • Limited Capability for Work Questionnaire (ESA50)
  • Medical Assessment

The questionnaire, called an ESA50, will be sent to you. You will need to complete and return the questionnaire for your claim to continue. You can find out more about completing the form on our Questionnaire (ESA50) page.

You will usually need to attend a medical assessment in person. A healthcare professional will see you in a face-to-face appointment and then report their findings to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP will then decide whether you have limited capability for work, based on your questionnaire and the report from the medical assessment. They will decide how many points you score in the Work Capability Assessment.  If you score less than 15 points, you are fit for work and your ESA will stop. If you score 15 points or more, you have limited capability for work and your ESA will continue. 

If the DWP decide that you have limited capability for work, you will be placed in one of two groups:

  • work-related activity group
  • support group

People in the work-related activity group have to carry out activities to prepare for returning to work, such as attending work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre. People in the support group do not have to carry out any activities.

People who have a terminal illness

If you have a terminal illness, there are special rules. You will be automatically placed in the support group from the start of your claim without having to be assessed.

 

Updated: March 2019

3. How much Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will I get?

Income related Employment and Support Allowance

The amount of income-related Employment and Support Allowance you can get depends on lots of things, such as:

  • how old you are
  • whether you live alone or with a partner
  • whether you are caring for someone
  • how much income you (and your partner) have
  • how much your (and your partner's) savings are over £6,000
  • whether you have a mortgage
  • whether you have had the Work Capability Assessment yet
  • if you have had the Work Capability Assessment, whether you are in the work-related activity group or the support group
  • when your claim started

You can use our Benefits Calculator to check how much income-related Employment and Support Allowance you may be entitled to.

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

The amount of contributory Employment and Support Allowance you can get depends on:

  • how old you are
  • whether you have had the Work Capability Assessment yet
  • if you have had the Work Capability Assessment, whether you are in the work-related activity group or the support group
  • when your claim started

Before the Work Capability Assessment, the amount you get is a personal allowance based on your age:

  • Under 25: £57.90 per week
  • 25 and over: £73.10 per week

After the Work Capability Assessment, the amount you get depends on when your claim started and which group you are in:

  • Work-related activity group and claim started before 3 April 2017: £102.15 per week
  • Work-related activity group and claim started on or after 3 April 2017: £73.10 per week
  • Support group, whenever your claim started: £111.65 per week

The amount you get may be reduced if you are receiving pension payments (over £85 per week), councillor's allowance (over £131.50 per week) or an overlapping benefit.

If you are in England, Scotland or Wales and you are in the work-related activity group, your contributory ESA will stop after 1 year.  You can read about the time limit on our Employment and Support Allowance time limit page.

If your ESA continues after the Work Capability Assessment, 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.

Benefit Cap

Employment and Support Allowance is included in the Benefit Cap which limits the total amount in some benefits that working-age people can receive.

However, if you or your partner is in the support group, you will be exempt from the Benefit Cap.

See our Benefit Cap information for more details.

How will I be paid Employment and Support Allowance?

Employment and Support Allowance will be paid directly into your Bank, Building Society or Post Office account or by Simple Payment if you are unable to open or manage one of these or a similar account.

Employment and Support Allowance is usually paid every two weeks

If you have a terminal illness, there are special rules. You can get Employment and Support Allowance from the first day of sickness.

Sanctions (for people in the Work-Related Activity Group)

If you are in work-related activity group, you will have to comply with conditions for your ESA to keep being paid. If you do not comply with the conditions, you could be sanctioned. You can read more about ESA sanctions on our Employment and Support Allowance sanctions page.

Employment and Support Allowance and other benefits

You may get Contributory and Income-related Employment and Support Allowance at the same time. In this situation, the income-related ESA is like a top-up to the contributory ESA. If you are getting both Contributory and Income-related ESA, they do not count as income for other benefits and tax credits.

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance is taken into account as income when calculating other benefits and tax credits.

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance is not taken into account as income when calculating other benefits and tax credits.

Housing Benefit

If you get income-related Employment and Support Allowance and are eligible for Housing Benefit, you are automatically entitled to get the maximum Housing Benefit for your circumstances.

Cold Weather Payment

If you get income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you may also qualify for a Cold Weather Payment. You do not need to make a claim as the payment will be made automatically for each qualifying period of cold weather. See our Cold Weather Payment guide for further details.

 

Updated April 2018

4. How do I claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

In England, Scotland or Wales

Phone Jobcentre Plus:
Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Welsh language line: 0800 012 1888

Or download a claim form from the Gov.UK website (link opens in a new window)

In Northern Ireland

Telephone: 0800 085 6318
Textphone: 0800 328 3419

Or download a claim form from the NI Direct website (link opens in a new window)

What documents will I need to claim Employment and Support Allowance?

You should give your national insurance number. If you do not have a national insurance number, send in the claim form anyway to save delays. You may also be asked for proof of your identity such as a birth certificate, passport or driving licence.

When will my Employment and Support Allowance claim begin?

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, if you 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.

5. Repeat claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Before 30 March 2015 if you failed the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and you reclaimed ESA you could be entitled to ESA immediately (pending a new WCA assessment) if your new claim was more than six months after your first WCA failure, even if your condition had not changed. This was known as the ‘six-month rule’.

New rules were introduced on 30th March 2015 which now end the ‘six month rule’ for reclaiming  ESA.

If on or after 30 March 2015 you are reclaiming ESA after failing the Work Capability Assessment you will now not be able to claim for ESA again if you are found to be capable of doing some work after your Work Capability Assessment(WCA).

There are some exceptions when a new ESA claim will be allowed, the main situations are where;

  • your current condition has got a lot worse

  • you’re claiming for a new condition

There are other exceptions that may apply in certain circumstances.

If you have failed the WCA and you want to reclaim ESA it is essential that you seek advice from an experienced adviser before making a new claim to check if you fall into any of the exceptions groups which would enable you to reclaim. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find details of local advice agencies in your area.

Getting ESA whilst appealing

On or after 30 March 2015 if you are appealing against a decision that you have failed  the Work Capability Assessment(WCA), then depending  on the facts, you can still be treated as having limited capability for work and so be entitled to ESA whilst appealing in the following situations;

  • if the WCA failure that you are appealing against is the first such failure (or the first since a previous decision that you passed the WCA),

  • where the WCA failure that you are appealing is the second or subsequent WCA failure and your condition has got significantly worse or you have a new health condition.

If you are appealing an ESA decision made before 30 March 2015 you can still get ESA whilst appealing, even if you had a second or subsequent WCA failure.

You must seek advice from an experienced adviser if you intend to appeal against an ESA decision. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find details of local advice agencies in your area.

6. How do I challenge an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) decision?

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 decision.

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 quickly.

Further information: