Eligibility

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

You cannot get ESA at the same time as:

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 coronavirus or you’re recovering from it
  • you or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have coronavirus
  • you have been told to stay at home for at least 12 weeks by the NHS because you’re at high risk of severe illness

‘New style’ ESA

Most new claims are for ‘new style’ ESA.

To get ‘new style’ ESA you need to have both:

  • worked as an employee or 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 cannot get ‘new style’ ESA if you:

  • get the severe disability premium, or are entitled to it
  • got or were entitled to the severe disability premium in the last month, and you’re still eligible for it

You cannot get ‘new style’ ESA if you’re getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer. 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.

‘New-style’ ESA and Universal Credit

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.

If you get or are eligible for the severe disability premium (SDP)

You can get income-related or contribution-based ESA if you:

  • get the severe disability premium, or are entitled to it
  • got or were entitled to the severe disability premium in the last month, and you’re still eligible for it

When you can apply for contribution-based ESA

You can apply for contribution-based ESA if you’ve been employed or self-employed and paid National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years. National Insurance credits can also count.

If you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last 2 to 3 years you may be able to get income-related ESA.

You cannot get income-related ESA if you have savings or investments worth over £16,000.