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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you're unable to work because of an illness or disability, you might be able to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

What is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

ESA is a benefit for people who can't work because of an illness or disability.

You might be able to claim ESA with, or instead of, Universal Credit – depending on your National Insurance record.

The new style ESA has replaced contribution-based ESA for anyone making a claim for the first time. But if you already claim income-related ESA or contributory ESA, then you'll continue to be paid these, provided you still meet the eligibility criteria. Anyone already claiming income-related ESA will be moved to Universal Credit in the next few years.

How much Employment and Support Allowance could I get?

Every claim for ESA is assessed by a healthcare professional. While your claim is assessed, you'll typically be paid an assessment rate for 13 weeks. 

If the outcome of your assessment is that you're eligible for ESA, you're put into one of two groups, depending on whether you're assessed as being able to take steps towards getting back into work, such as going to job interviews.

Group Amount per week Who gets this?
Work-related activity Up to £90.50 Those who are able to get back into work in the future
Support Up to £138.20 Those unable to get back into work because of an illness or disability

ESA is based on National Insurance contributions and is taxable. It might be reduced if you have a private pension or you’re claiming other benefits. You might also be eligible for Universal Credit which can pay extra amounts depending on your circumstances, such as if you pay rent or care for someone. 

Those in the support group on income-related ESA can also apply for the enhanced disability premium.

Am I eligible to claim Employment and Support Allowance?

You might be eligible to claim new style ESA if you:

  • have a limited capability for work because of an illness or disability
  • are under State Pension age
  • have made enough National Insurance contributions
  • aren’t getting Statutory Sick Pay
  • aren’t working.

Is ESA means-tested?

The new style ESA is not means-tested. You can claim new style ESA and Universal Credit at the same time – but if you do, your Universal Credit amount will be reduced by the amount of ESA you get. 

Are you entitled to extra money?

Do you know what benefits you're entitled to? Our online benefits calculator can help you quickly and easily find out what you could be claiming.

Get a free benefits check

How to claim Employment Support Allowance

To make a claim, either for yourself or someone else, you have to submit a form. There are a couple of ways you can do this. You can:

  • call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 – they’ll ask you questions over the phone and can fill in the form for you
  • .

After you apply you’ll be invited to attend a medical assessment called a 'work capability assessment' and fill in a 'limited capacity for work' questionnaire. This looks at how your illness or disability affects you. After this, you’ll be told whether you’re eligible for ESA.

If you’re eligible for ESA, you’ll be placed in the ‘work-related activity group’ or the ‘support group’.

You'll be contacted about any additional evidence that's needed for your application and where this should be sent.

More Employment Support Allowance questions

Can you claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA) after Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

You can't receive new style ESA while you're getting SSP. If your SSP ends and you're still not well enough to work, you can make a claim for new style ESA. Your payments will depend on your National Insurance contributions.

You can get SSP while claiming Universal Credit – it'll be treated as employment earnings.

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Does Employment Support Payment (ESA) stop when I get to State Pension age?

You can't usually get ESA when you reach State Pension age. However, if your partner is under State Pension age, you might still be part of a couple's claim for ESA or Universal Credit.

You should claim State Pension when you reach State Pension age. If you, and your partner if you have one, are State Pension age, you might also be entitled to pension age means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit.

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What are the changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

New claims for income-related ESA aren't available anymore as it's being replaced by Universal Credit.

Find out more about Universal Credit

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Last updated: May 23 2024

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