Jobseeker's allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is for people below retirement age who are unemployed but able to work.

It gives you a weekly income while you look for work. There are two types of JSA:

  • contribution-based
  • income-based.

Important changes

If you are making a new claim, income-based JSA is being replaced by Universal Credit. The benefit you need to apply for will depend on where you live. Contribution-based JSA is staying the same.

Who can claim

You can claim JSA if you are:

  • aged 18 or above (aged 16 or 17 in certain cases)
  • not in full-time education
  • available for work and actively looking for work
  • not working
  • working less than 16 hours a week on average.

Contribution-based JSA is for people who have paid enough National Insurance. You may not have paid enough National Insurance if you were self-employed.

Time limit for contribution-based JSA

Contribution-based JSA lasts for six months. After this, you may qualify for income-related JSA if your income and savings are below a certain level.

If you work part time

If you work less than 16 hours a week, the Jobcentre Plus or Social Security/Jobs and Benefits Office will ignore some of the money you earn when it works out whether you are eligible for income-based JSA. They will usually ignore:

  • £5 a week for single people
  • £10 a week for couples
  • £20 a week for some other people, for example carers or people who are severely disabled.

Advisers at your local Jobcentre Plus, or your local Social Security/Jobs and Benefits Office if you live in Northern Ireland, will help you with your job search. If you need advice about work because of an illness or disability, ask to see a disability employment adviser.

Income-based JSA

Income-based JSA may be available if you are on a low income. The amount you can get depends on your circumstances, including your income and savings, and those of your partner if you have one. Income-based JSA acts as a ‘passport’ to other benefits, such as free school meals and Housing Benefit.

Income-based JSA is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit during 2016 and 2017. If you are eligible, you should apply for contribution-based JSA first.

How to claim

Back to Working age benefits

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment for people who are on a low income or looking for work in England, Scotland and Wales.