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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - A Guide

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A guide to Employment and Support Allowance giving you financial help to work
if you can or are unable to because of an illness or disability.
Universal Credit (UL) is replacing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in phases from April 2013.

Incapacity Benefit and Income Support that is paid because of an illness or disability for new claimants has been replaced by Employment and Support Allowance since 27 October 2008. If you are already receiving Incapacity Benefit, you will continue to get it as long as you are eligible.


See also:
Universal Credit - A Guide

Incapacity Benefit

Benefit Rates

 

Introduction

Employment and Support Allowance offers you support and financial help, so that you can do appropriate work, if you are able to.

It also gives you access to a specially trained personal adviser and a wide range of further services including employment, training and condition management support, to help you manage and cope with your illness or disability at work.

Employment and Support Allowance involves a new medical assessment called the Work Capability Assessment. This assesses what you can do, rather than what you cannot, and identifies the health-related support you might need.

Most people claiming Employment and Support Allowance will be expected to take steps to prepare for work, including attending work focused interviews with their personal adviser.

Under Employment and Support Allowance, if you have an illness or disability that severely affects your ability to work, you will get increased financial support and will not be expected to prepare for a return to work. You can volunteer to do so at any point if you want to.

How it works

Employment and Support Allowance consists of two phases:

  • 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
  • the main phase starts from week 14 of your claim, if the Work Capability Assessment shows that your illness or disability does limit your ability to work.

There are two groups within the main phase:

Work Related Activity Group

If you are placed in the Work Related Activity Group, you will be expected to take part in work focused interviews with your personal adviser. You will get support to help you prepare for suitable work.

In return, you will receive a work related activity component in addition to your basic rate. 

Support Group

If you are placed in the Support 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. You can do so on a voluntary basis if you want to.

You will receive a support component in addition to your basic rate.

 

Helping you into work

If you are in the Work Related Activity Group, you will regularly see your personal adviser to discuss your work prospects. They will give you help and advice with:

  • your job goals
  • your skills, strengths and abilities
  • steps you can take to help find suitable work
  • your ideas, problems and any other work related issues you want to talk about.

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 Employment and Support Allowance.

If you are in the Support Group you do not have to go to interviews, but you can ask to talk to a personal adviser if you want to.

Information leaflet from Jobcentre Plus

Jobcentre Plus publishes an information leaflet called 'Employment and Support Allowance - help if you are ill or disabled'. You can download the leaflet in PDF format from the Jobcentre Plus website. Click here to download

Who can get Employment and Support Allowance

You may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance if any of the following apply to you:

  • your Statutory Sick Pay has ended, or you cannot get it
  • you are self employed or unemployed
  • you have been getting Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and have not gone back to work for your employer because you have an illness or disability which affects your ability to work
  • you are under State Pension age 

You must also either:

  • have had an illness or disability which affects your ability to work for at least four days in a row (including weekends and public holidays)
  • be unable to work for two or more days out of seven consecutive days
  • be getting special medical treatment

If you are aged between 16 and 20 (or under 25 if you were in education or training at least three months immediately before turning 20), you must:

  • have been too ill to work because of an illness or disability for at least 28 weeks
  • have been too ill to work before you turned 20 (or 25 if you were in education or training at least three months immediately before turning 20)

Entitlement conditions

There are two types of Employment and Support Allowance:

  • contribution-based
  • income-related

Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance

You may be entitled to claim contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance if you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions.

Income-based Employment and Support Allowance

You may be entitled to claim income-based Employment and Support Allowance if you do not have enough money coming in, or you have not paid enough National Insurance Contributions, and you satisfy the entitlement conditions. This means that you have savings of less than £16,000 and, if you have a partner or civil partner, they work for less than 24 hours a week on average.

If you have been living or working abroad

Living or working abroad can affect your Employment and Support Allowance claim. You may be able to claim if you have either:

  • paid enough UK National Insurance Contributions in the past (and the equivalent in certain other countries)
  • worked abroad for an employer based in the UK and paid National Insurance Contributions for the first 52 weeks of that employment
Incapacity Benefit

If you have received Incapacity Benefit during the two years before 27th October 2008, you might get that again instead of Employment and Support Allowance. Jobcentre Plus will consider this when you make your claim.

Rates

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.

 Age of claimant  Weekly amount
 A single person aged under 25  up to £56.25
 A single person aged 25 and over  up to £71.00
Weekly rate during the main phase

The main phase starts from week 14 of your claim, if the Work Capability Assessment shows that your illness or disability does limit your ability to work.

 Type of group  Weekly amount
 A single person in the Work Related Activity Group  up to £99.15
 A single person in the Support Group  up to £105.05

In most cases you will not get any money for the first three days of your claim. These are called 'waiting days'.

Depending on your circumstances you may be able to get more money if you get income-related Employment and Support Allowance. 

You can only get extra money for your husband, wife or civil partner if you get income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

Pension income rules

If you receive contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance and have a gross pension income of more than £85 a week, the amount of benefit payable will be reduced by half of the excess.

The excess is the difference between £85 and the actual pension income. For example, for a pension income of £100, the excess is £15. The amount of Employment and Support Allowance payable is reduced by half of that, which is £7.50.

If you receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance, any pension income you have will be taken into account, regardless of the amount.

Income Tax

Income Tax will not be taken from income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

There are some other cases where no Income Tax will be taken, for example if you are getting an occupational pension.

Income Tax may be taken from contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance if you are getting either of the main phase rates.

You will get a letter that tells you how much tax you will have to pay, if any. The amount of tax depends on your tax code.

How it is paid

Employment and Support Allowance is usually paid into your bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings account - any account that accepts Direct Payment.

What to do if your circumstances change

It is important to contact the Jobcentre Plus office dealing with your claim if your circumstances change. You can do this by telephone - their number will be on letters they have sent to you. For example if:

  • you do any work, including voluntary work
  • you start training and get a training allowance
  • you change your address
  • you have been in hospital for 52 weeks and part of your benefit is paid for someone else
  • you go abroad
 
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