Jobseeker's allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is for people below State Pension 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

In England, Scotland and Wales, Income-based JSA is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit. Contribution-based JSA will stay the same. The benefit you have to apply for will depend on where you live.

Who can claim

You can claim JSA if you are:

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

Contribution-based JSA is for people who have made enough national insurance contributions. You may not have made enough national insurance contributions if you made them while 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, some of the money you earn will be ignored when working out whether you are eligible for income-based JSA. This is generally:

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

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

How to claim

Call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688, textphone 0800 023 4888, or visit You’ll need to attend an interview with an adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus.

In Northern Ireland, contact your local Jobs and Benefits or Social Security Office.

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.