3. Eligibility

You may get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if your illness or disability affects your ability to work and you’re:

  • under State Pension age
  • not getting Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay and you haven’t gone back to work
  • not getting Jobseeker’s Allowance

You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student on Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

You may get ESA if you’ve lived or worked abroad and paid enough UK National Insurance (or the equivalent in an EEA or other country with which the UK has an agreement).

Use a benefits calculator to check your eligibility.

Work Capability Assessment

While your claim is being assessed you’ll get a letter telling you where to go for your Work Capability Assessment and explaining what to do.

You must also fill in the ‘Limited capability for work questionnaire’ during the application. The questionnaire is different in Northern Ireland.

Your benefit may be stopped if you don’t fill in the questionnaire or go for the assessment.

You may be able to get a recording of the assessment.

Claiming ESA if you work

Usually your ESA isn’t affected if you:

  • work and earn up to £20 a week
  • work and earn up to £101 a week doing work as part of a treatment programme, or supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation
  • work less than 16 hours a week, and earn up to £101 a week for up to 52 weeks

This is called ‘permitted work’.

You can also do ‘supported permitted work’ for less than 16 hours per week and earn up to £101 a week if your illness or disability very severely limits your ability to work. There is no limit to the number of weeks you can do ‘supported permitted work’ for.

Supported permitted work is supervised by someone from a local council or a voluntary organisation whose job it is to arrange work for disabled people.

You must tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if you start doing permitted work. They’ll send you form PW1 to fill in and send back to them.

Any volunteer work you do needs to be reported. It normally doesn’t affect your ESA.

Tell the Jobcentre Plus office dealing with your claim if your circumstances change (eg your income changes or you go abroad) as this can affect your ESA.

Your income and savings

Your income may affect your income-related or contribution-based ESA. Income can include:

  • you and your partner’s income
  • savings over £6,000
  • pension income

You won’t qualify for income-related ESA if you have savings over £16,000.

Universal Credit

You won’t be eligible for income-related ESA if you get Universal Credit.

You can still go for a Work Capability Assessment to see if you’re entitled to the limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA) elements.

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