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Working hours: benefits rules - How are benefits affected by hours worked?

If you are doing paid work for an employer or are self-employed but on a low income, you may still qualify for certain welfare benefits. Benefit entitlement can depend on how many hours of paid work you do per week.

How are benefits affected by hours worked?

Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance

For Income Support (IS) or Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), you are classed as working full time (and therefore not eligible for the benefit) if you do 16 hours or more paid work per week. Your partner is allowed to do paid work of less than 24 hours per week.

If you are working less than 16 hours per week, and your partner is working less than 24 hours per week, then you may be eligible to claim these benefits but the amount you are entitled to could be affected by any earnings you have.

Working Tax Credit

If you or your partner work too many hours to be eligible for IS or JSA you may be eligible to receive Working Tax Credit (WTC) instead. You can't make new claims for working tax credit unless you already get child tax credit. To get WTC, you and/or your partner must work at least a certain number of hours per week:

  • If you are single and responsible for a child, you must work at least 16 hours per week

  • If you qualify for the disability element of WTC, or are over 60 year's old, you must work at least 16 hours per week

  • If you are a couple and responsible for a child you must, in most cases, work at least 24 hours between you (with one of you working at least 16 hours)

  • Otherwise, you must be aged 25 or over and work at least 30 hours a week.


Employment and Support Allowance 

You normally can't do any work while claiming Employment and Support Allowance.  However, you can do what's known as 'permitted work' and remain entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

If you claim income-related ESA, your partner can work less than 24 hours per week doing any type of paid work but their earnings could affect the amount you are entitled to. However, your partner's work hours will not affect your entitlement to Contributory ESA, which is based on your national insurance contribution record.

Universal Credit

Working hours do not affect Universal Credit. Universal Credit is paid to people in or out of work, and you (or your partner) can work any number of hours and still qualify. 

Reviewed September 2021

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