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Employment and Support Allowance time limit

Information about who is affected by the time limit and what they can do.

There is a one-year time limit on payment of contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for people in the Work-Related Activity Group. 

Some people affected by the time limit will be able to claim income-related ESA instead, but there will be a large number of people who will not be able to, for example, if their partner is working full time.

How will I know when I reach the time limit?

If you are getting contributory ESA and are in the work-related activity group the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will write to you before your entitlement expires. In some cases, they will be able to identify if you would be entitled to income-related ESA and will transfer you onto it automatically without any break. However, there will be many cases where the DWP do not have enough information, about your partner’s income and employment for example, to decide your entitlement to income-related ESA, so the DWP will invite you to make a claim.

What can I do if my contributory Employment and Support Allowance is going to stop?

Seek advice to see whether your condition is severe enough for you to be placed into the support group of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). People in the support group can receive contributory ESA without any time limit. 

Use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to check if you might qualify for income-related ESA. If you are a single person with capital below £16,000 and no other income you should qualify. If you are living with a partner you will have to claim as a couple, and your partner’s income and capital will be taken into account. If your partner works for 24 hours a week or more, you won't be eligible to claim income-related ESA.

Check if there are any other benefits you could claim – for example, if you have a partner who is in low paid work they may be able to claim Working Tax Credit.  You may be able to claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support, or if you are already receiving some Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support,  the amount may be increased due to the reduction in your household income when your contributory ESA stops. Our Benefits Calculator will check your entitlement to other benefits and tax credits.

You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local benefits adviser who can give further advice on your particular situation.  

Welfare Reform in Northern Ireland

The 365 day time limit on contributory ESA if you are in the work related activity group does not apply in Northern Ireland yet. There is more information about the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill on the nidirect website.