What is it?
If you are unemployed and have paid sufficient class 1 National Insurance contributions you may qualify for contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
You qualify for contributory JSA if you have made the following level of National Insurance Contributions:
in one of the last two complete tax years, have paid Class 1 (or special Class 2) contributions to the value of 26 times the lower earnings limit; and
in both of the last two complete tax years, have paid or been credited with, Class 1 (or special class 2) contributions to the value of 50 times the lower earnings limit.
The 2 tax years that are relevant are the ones that were completed before the benefit year in which your jobseeking period began. The tax year runs 6 April - 5th April. The benefit year runs from the first Sunday in January.
The lower earnings limit for the 2014/2015 tax year was £111 per week, for 2015/2016 it was £112 per week.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will treat any credits that are earned as a carer as actual National Insurance payments.
The rules are complex so to find out whether you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions to claim contribution based Jobseeker's Allowance you should phone the Department for Work and Pensions on 0800 055 6688 (or 0800 023 4888 if you have a speech or hearing impairment).
As well as having paid enough National Insurance contributions you must also satisfy the other conditions for JSA, such as signing on and showing that you are actively seeking work.
How much do I get?
From April 2017, the rate for contribution based JSA is:
age under 25 - £57.90
age 25 or over - £73.10
If you do not have enough national insurance contributions to get this benefit you should apply for income based JSA. If you are entitled to this benefit you may also be entitled to a 'top-up' of income based JSA. For more information see income-based Job Seeker's Allowance.
How do I claim?
The first step in making a new claim for JSA is to fill in the Jobseeker's Allowance online claim form.
Once you have filled in the online form you will then need to attend an interview with JobCentre Plus. Even if you have made a JSA claim within the last 6 months, and hence can use the 'rapid reclaim' service, you need to fill in the form before an interview can be arranged.
You will not be paid for the first 7 days of your claim, these are called waiting days.
If you can't apply online then a telephone helpline is available. For more information see the .Gov help page on how to claim JSA.
For Northern Ireland you claim via the social security/jobs and benefit offices and details can be found on the NIdirect website.