Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is for people of working age who cannot work because of illness or disability. Entitlement usually depends upon your National Insurance record (except for some young adults), and may be subject to a medical assessment.
Note: this leaflet gives a brief summary of ESA and is for guidance only. It does not cover all situations, nor is it a full statement of the law. Sources of further, more detailed information are given at the end.
What is Employment and Support Allowance?
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced on 27 October 2008 and replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support but for new claimants only. Claims are being reviewed for people who already receive Incapacity Benefit to see if they are eligible to move over to ESA or are capable of working and may be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).
How does Employment and Support Allowance work?
There are two phases to ESA:
- The assessment phase rate which 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 (see below).
- The main phase which starts from week 14 of your claim, if the Work Capability Assessment shows that your illness or disability does limit your ability to work.
As a result of the assessment you will be put in either:
- The Work-Related Activity Group. You will be expected to take part in work-focused interviews with your personal adviser. In return, you will receive a work-related activity component in addition to your basic rate. If you refuse to go to the work-focused interviews, or to take part fully in the work-focused interviews, it may affect your entitlement to ESA.
- The Support Group. You will be placed in this group because your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work. You will not be expected to take part in any work and do not have to go to interviews. However, you can ask to talk to a personal adviser if you want to. You will receive a support component in addition to your basic rate.
Who can get Employment and Support Allowance?
You may be able to claim ESA if you are aged over 16 years and under the state pension age, and any of the following apply to you:
- Your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) has ended, or you cannot get it, and you are not back at work.
- Or you are self-employed or unemployed.
- Or your Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) has ended but you have not gone back to work because you have an illness or disability which affects your ability to work.
- Or you are not receiving Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).
- Or you are a student getting Personal Independence Payment (PIP)/Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
There are three types of ESA:
'New style' ESA
If you're entitled to claim Universal Credit, you can apply if you live in a Universal Credit full service area. If you live anywhere else, you can only apply if one of the following is true:
- You are already claiming Universal Credit.
- You claimed Universal Credit in the past six months and your payments ended because of your earnings.
New style ESA works in the same way as contributory ESA. Your partner's income and savings will not affect how much new style ESA you're paid. You can get new style ESA on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. If you get both at the same time, your new style ESA payment will be deducted from your Universal Credit payment - you are not guaranteed to get any extra money.
You may be entitled to claim this contribution-based ESA if:
- You're not in a Universal Credit full service area.
- You have paid enough National Insurance contributions (National Insurance credits can count for part of this, if you get them).
You may be entitled to claim income-related ESA if you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions, and you satisfy the entitlement conditions. How much you get depends on your circumstances. You cannot get income-related ESA and Universal Credit at the same time.
How much is Employment and Support Allowance?
ESA is paid in two phases (April 2018 rates):
- The assessment phase rate which 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 years can receive up to £57.90 a week.
- A single person aged 25 years and over can receive up to £73.10 a week.
- The main phase which starts from week 14 of your claim, if the Work Capability Assessment shows that your illness or disability does limit your ability to work:
- A single person in the Work-Related Activity Group can receive up to £73.10 a week.
- A single person in the Support Group can receive up to £110.75 a week.
Note: your individual circumstances may affect the amount you receive. For example:
- If you get income-related ESA you may be able to get more money if you have adult dependants.
- If you receive a pension you may get less ESA.
- Income tax may be taken from contribution-based ESA.
How is Employment Support Allowance assessed?
Most people claiming ESA must have a medical assessment to prove they are unable to work because of their condition or disability. This is called the Work Capability Assessment which is made up of two parts:
- The Limited Capability for Work to find out what benefit you are entitled to based on how much your illness or disability affects your ability to work.
- The Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity to find out if you need to be put into the Support Group because your condition is so bad it is unreasonable to expect you to do any work-related activity.
How do you claim Employment and Support Allowance?
The quickest way to apply for ESA is by telephone or textphone. The number you call depends on which type of ESA you're applying for. Lines are open Monday to Friday, from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.
'New style' ESA
If you live in a Universal Credit full service area, you can claim by calling the full service helpline:
Universal Credit full service helpline
- Telephone: 0800 328 5644
- Textphone: 0800 328 1344
If you live anywhere else and are eligible for new style ESA, call:
- Telephone: 0800 328 9344
- Textphone: 0800 328 1344
If you're not eligible to claim Universal Credit in your area then you will not be able to claim new style ESA. You may be able to claim contributory or income-related ESA instead.
Contributory ESA and income-related ESA
Contact centre numbers
- Telephone 0800 055 6688
- Textphone 0800 023 4888
- Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
You can also go to the GOV.UK website or nidirect website (for people in Northern Ireland) to download a claim form.
What is required when you make your claim?
You will need the following:
- National Insurance number.
- Fit note (sometimes called a sick note or a doctor's note).
- GP's address and telephone number.
- Home and mobile telephone numbers.
- Mortgage or landlord details.
- Council Tax bill.
- Employer's address and telephone number and dates of employment or last day worked.
- Bank account details.
- Details of any other money you are getting, such as benefits or sick pay.
How is Employment and Support Allowance paid?
ESA is usually paid into a bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings account.
Further reading and references
Employment and Support Allowance; GOV.UK