Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who have difficulty working because of an illness or disability.
ESA gives you money to help with your living costs if you’re unable to work. It also gives you support to get back to work if you’re able to.
You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, unemployed or self-employed.
Who can claim it?
You can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you’re under State Pension age and have an illness or disability that affects how much you can work.
You can’t get ESA if you’re claiming Statutory Sick Pay or Jobseeker’s Allowance.
This information applies to people who are making a new claim for ESA. If you’re being transferred to ESA from another benefit, contact the Carers UK Helpline for advice.
There are different types of ESA. The type you will apply for depends on your circumstances.
Most new claims are for ‘new style’ ESA. To claim, you must have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last two to three years. National Insurance credits also count.
You could get Universal Credit at the same time as or instead of new style ESA. Universal Credit can help with, for example, your housing or childcare costs.
You can’t get new style ESA if you get a severe disability premium. You may be eligible for the old types of ESA instead.
If you’re entitled to a severe disability premium, you might be eligible for:
- income-related ESA – if you have no income or a low income
- contribution-based ESA – if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions.
You can claim one or both types.
The amount of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) you get depends on what stage your application is at, as well as things like your age and whether you’ll be able to get back to work.
Neither you or any partner’s income and savings will affect how much new style or contribution-based ESA you get, except if you have an occupational or personal pension that pays more than £85 per week.
If you get income-related ESA, you and any partner’s income and savings of £6000 or more may affect what you can get.
While your claim is being assessed, you can get up to £84.80 a week if you’re over 25 or £67.20 if you’re under 25. After your assessment, you’ll get:
• up to £84.80 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group
• up to £133.30 a week if you’re in the support group.
You may also get extra amounts called premiums added to your ESA. If you’re a carer, you could get a carer premium. You could also get a premium if you’re disabled or if your partner is a pensioner.
Most people will make a claim for new style ESA. You can apply for ESA online at Gov.uk or by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 – select the option for new style ESA.
If you’re applying for the old types of ESA (income-related or contribution-based), you’ll usually have to do so over the phone. Call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 169 0350. They will check whether you’re eligible for one or both types.
You can apply for any type of ESA online at NI Direct or by calling the ESA Centre on 0800 085 6318 . An advisor will talk through the form with you and fill it out on your behalf.
You’ll be invited to a medical assessment called a Work Capability Assessment to find out if your disability or illness affects how much you can work. You might not need one, for example if you’re in hospital or terminally ill. These assessments are currently being done over the phone because of COVID-19.
You’ll also be asked to fill in a ‘capability for work’ questionnaire.
After your claim is assessed, you’ll be placed in one of two groups:
• a work-related group if you can prepare to work in the future, for example by writing a CV
• a support group if you’re not expected to prepare for work.
If you’re in the support group, there’s no time limit to how long you can get ESA for.
If you’re in the work-related group and get either new style ESA or contribution-based ESA, you’ll get ESA for one year. If you get income-related ESA, there’s no time limit.
Tell the relevant benefits office if your circumstances change. In England, Wales and Scotland, call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 169 0310. In Northern Ireland, tell your Social Security or Jobs and Benefits Office.
Start by asking for a mandatory reconsideration. This means the decision maker has to look again at the decision they made. If you still disagree with the outcome after this, you can make an appeal. Find out more in our challenging a benefit decision section.