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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 2 types of Employment and Support Allowance: contribution-based and income-based.

  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance is paid if you paid 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 began for those in the work-related activity group. For more information see contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance is payable if you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions. Income-related 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 contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.

Can I get it?

When you first make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance all you need to show is a medical certificate. However, 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.

Your eligibility for contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance depends on if you paid enough National Insurance contributions when you were working. Your eligibility for income-related Employment and Support Allowance depends on your income and capital.

How much will I get?

2017/18 Weekly rate during 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-related ESA)
  • A couple aged 18 and over -  £114.85 (income-related ESA only).

Main phase, Work Related Activity Group

If after the Work Capability Assessment you are placed in the Work Related Activity group you will be awarded an additional component worth £29.05 a week.

If you make a new claim for ESA after 3 April 2017 and are placed in the Work Related Activity group you will not receive an additional component on top of your assessment rate as the work related activity component is being 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

Contributory ESA entitlement is time limited to one year for those in the Work-related Activity group.

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 £36.55 a week.

Contributory ESA entitlement is not time limited for those in the Support group.

How do I claim?

More details on how the process for claiming and assessing Employment and Support Allowance are available on the GOV.UK website. You can make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance by phoning 0800 055 6688 (or 0800 023 4888 if you have a speech or hearing impairment). 
If you live in Norhern ireland more details are available on the NI Direct website. You can make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance by phoning 0800 085 6318 (or 08003283419 if you have a speech or hearing impairment).

You will not be paid for the first 7 days of your claim, these are called waiting days. 

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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