Eligibility

You can apply for ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you’re under State Pension age and you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.

You also need to have both:

  • worked as an employee or have been self-employed
  • paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years - National Insurance credits also count

Check your National Insurance record for gaps.

You could get Universal Credit at the same time or instead of ‘new style’ ESA. Universal Credit can help with, for example, your housing and childcare costs.

You cannot get ‘new style’ ESA if you:

If your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is due to end

You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA up to 3 months before your SSP ends. You’ll start getting ‘new style’ ESA as soon as your SSP ends.

If you’re working

You can apply whether you’re in or out of work. There are conditions to working while claiming ESA.

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)

You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA if you’re unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay and one of the following applies:

  • you or your child might have COVID-19 or you’re recovering from it
  • you or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have COVID-19
  • you’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
  • you’re quarantining because you’ve recently returned from a red or amber list country

If you’re claiming ESA because of COVID-19, you’ll need to give evidence to support your claim.

Proof if you’re self-isolating or quarantining because of COVID-19

You’ll need to provide proof if you’re self-isolating or quarantining for your ESA claim. You can provide proof by:

  • getting an ‘isolation note’ online from NHS 111 if you’ve been off work for 7 or more days - if you or your child are self-isolating and you cannot work
  • using your notification from the NHS or public health authorities - if you’ve come into contact with someone with COVID-19
  • using the letter confirming the date of your procedure if you’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
  • using your travel information - if you’re quarantining after returning from abroad

You do not have to go to your doctor or a hospital to get proof.