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Employment and Support Allowance

Claiming Employment and Support Allowance: Incapacity Grounds

What is it?

You may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance if you have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work. If you are an employee you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay as an alternative to Employment and Support Allowance, at least when you are first off work. 

There are two types of Employment and Support Allowance: contributory and income-based.

Income-based Employment and Support Allowance

Income-based Employment and Support Allowance is payable if you have a low income and have not made enough National Insurance contributions. Income-based Employment and Support Allowance has no time limit and can be claimed for as long as you meet the qualifying criteria. It can also top-up contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

You can no longer make a new claim for income-based Employment and Support Allowance, any new claims will be for Universal Credit instead unless you receive a Severe Disability Premium in one of your benefits.

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance is paid if you made enough National Insurance contributions when you were working. You can get it even if your partner works or if you have savings.

Contributory ESA entitlement is limited to one year from the time entitlement begins for those placed in the work-related activity group. There is no time limit for those placed in the support group.

If you are claiming Universal Credit, the version of contributory ESA you claim will be known as 'new-style' ESA.

For more information see our help page covering contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

ESA criteria

After the 'assessment phase' of around 13 weeks Employment and Support Allowance is only payable if you meet the 'Work Capability Assessment' rules. Most people are asked to go to a face to face assessment to see if they meet the criteria, this may be in a local health centre or if you have particular health needs an assessor may come to your home. For more information on this criteria see Employment and Support Allowance Criteria.

A person who is assessed or treated as having limited capability for work will move on to ‘main phase’ ESA after around 13 weeks of their claim. They will get an extra component paid on top of their ESA. The amount of the extra component depends on whether you are classified as being in the ‘work related activity group’ or the ‘support’ group. Which group you are assigned to depends on the result of your Work Capability Assessment.

For more details see ESA phase or ESA component.

How much will I get?

The following rates are for 2019/20.

The assessment phase

The assessment phase rate is paid for the first 13 weeks of your claim while a decision is made on your capability for work through the Work Capability Assessment.

  • A single person aged under 25 -  £57.90
  • A single person aged 25 and over -  £73.10 (for both contributory ESA and income-based ESA)
  • A couple aged 18 and over -  £114.85 (income-based ESA only).

Main phase, Work Related Activity Group

Prior to 3 April 2017 if you were placed in the Work Related Activity group you would be awarded an additional component worth £29.05 a week. Since this date there is no additional component on top of the assessment rate as the work related activity component was abolished for new claimants.

This change doesn't affect:

  • existing Employment and Support Allowance claimants who made a claim before 3 April 2017
  • claimants in the support group, who will continue to get the support group component
  • existing Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have a further Work Capability Assessment (re-assessment) after 3 April 2017 and are placed into the WRAG, even if they move from the support group to the WRAG
  • Incapacity Benefit re-assessment cases that are awarded Employment and Support Allowance
  • claims made from 3 April 2017 which are backdated for up to 3 months to a date before 3 April 2017
  • claimants who have a break in their claim and come back to Employment and Support Allowance within 12 weeks and their original date of claim is before 3 April 2017
  • claimants who claimed Employment and Support Allowance before 3 April 2017 and their Employment and Support Allowance claim was closed due to getting Maternity Allowance who then make a new claim to Employment and Support Allowance within 12 weeks of Maternity Allowance ending
  • mandatory reconsideration and appeal decisions for claims made before 3 April 2017

Main phase, Support Group

If after the Work Capability Assessment you are placed in the Support group you will be awarded an additional component worth £38.55 a week.

How do I claim?

You can not make a new claim for income-based ESA, you will need to claim Universal Credit instead unless you receive a severe disability premium in one of your benefits.

More details on how to claim contributory and income based Employment and Support Allowance are available on the GOV.UK website

If you live in Norhern ireland more details are available on the NI Direct website

Third Party Deductions

When you claim Employment and Support Allowance you can pay for bills and debt directly from your benefit. This is called a Third Party Deduction, to find out more about this see Third Party Deductions.

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