Employment and Support Allowance (MT/C)
Employment and Support Allowance gives financial help to people under State Pension age who can’t work because of their illness or disability.
There are two types of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): contribution-based and income-related (means-tested).
In England, Scotland and Wales, between October 2013 and 2017, income-related Employment and Support Allowance is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit for new claimants. Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance is staying the same. In Northern Ireland, similar changes are expected but the Welfare Reform Bill is still under consideration. Check nidirect.gov.uk for the latest news on expected changes to Employment and Support Allowance in Northern Ireland.
Contact a welfare rights adviser to find out how these changes may affect you.
You may get either or both types, depending on your income, savings and how much national insurance you’ve paid.
If you cannot get contribution or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you can make a credit-only claim. You will be credited with Class 1 National Insurance contributions. This counts towards your state retirement pension and some other contribution-based benefits.
Applying for Employment and Support Allowance
When you apply for this benefit, you will usually have to provide the DWP with medical certificates about your illness or disability. In Northern Ireland, you will provide these to the Social Security Agency.
You may also need to attend a face-to-face medical assessment.
If you meet the initial medical requirements, you’ll be paid a basic rate of up to £72.40 per week for the first 13 weeks of the claim.
Work capability assessment
After 13 weeks of receiving Employment and Support Allowance, you may need to have a work capability assessment. This is unless: you are terminally ill; you are awaiting, having or recovering from certain types of cancer treatment; or you have claimed this benefit before in the last 12 weeks.
The work capability assessment is to find out how your illness or disability limits your ability to work. You may be asked to attend a face-to-face meeting as part of this assessment. You can take someone with you to any assessments you are asked to attend.
If the work capability assessment shows that you still qualify for ESA, you will be placed in either the support group or the work-related activity group.
If your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work, you’ll be placed in the support group and you won’t have to do work-related activities. An extra payment of £35.75 is paid to anyone in the support group, in addition to the basic rate.
If your ability to work is limited, but not severely, you’ll be placed in the work-related activity group. You’ll have to go to six work-focused interviews. A smaller additional payment of £28.75 is paid to anyone in this group, in addition to the basic rate.
Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and terminally ill
If you are receiving, waiting for or recovering from any type of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or if you are terminally ill, you should be treated as unable to work or to undertake any work-related activity. This should mean you can get Employment and Support Allowance.
If you are terminally ill, you will automatically be placed in the support group from the start of your claim. If you are receiving, waiting for or recovering from chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you will be placed in the support group after 13 weeks of receiving ESA at the basic rate.
Time limits for contribution-based ESA (England, Scotland and Wales)
You can only receive contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance in the work-related activity group for 12 months.
After 12 months, the benefit will stop unless you:
claim and qualify for income-related Employment and Support Allowance (or, depending on where you live and your situation, Universal Credit)
ask to be placed in, and are accepted for, the support group
If you think this may affect you, speak to a welfare rights adviser as soon as possible. Call them free on 0808 808 00 00.
Similar changes are proposed in Northern Ireland but the Welfare Bill is still under consideration. Check nidirect.gov.uk for the latest news on expected changes.
If you’re self-employed, you can claim contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance as long as you’ve paid enough national insurance.
You may be able to get more money if you qualify for income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit, depending on your circumstances.
How to claim
Call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 or visit gov.uk/employment-support-allowance
In Northern Ireland, call 0800 085 6318 or visit nidirect.gov.uk