Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

4. Eligibility

Use a benefits calculator to check if you can get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) before you apply. You may need to claim Universal Credit instead.

You may get 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).

You need to be entitled to apply for Universal Credit to claim ‘new style’ ESA.

Health and work conversation

You’ll usually need to have a health and work conversation to discuss the support you need.

You’ll be told if you need one after you claim. If you do, it will take place around 4 weeks after the date of your claim.

You might not need one, for example if you’re in hospital or you have a terminal illness.

Your benefit may be reduced if you don’t attend your health and work conversation.

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 ‘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.

Repeat claims

In most cases, you won’t be eligible for ESA again if you were found capable of doing some work after your Work Capability Assessment. The main exceptions are where:

  • your current condition has got a lot worse
  • you’re claiming for a new condition

Claiming ESA if you work

You might be able to work and still claim ESA. It depends on how much you’ll get paid and the hours you do.

Permitted work

If you do ‘permitted work’ it won’t usually affect your ESA. It’s permitted work if both the following apply:

  • you earn up to £120 a week
  • you work less than 16 hours a week

There’s no limit on how many weeks your permitted work can last for.

Supported permitted work

You can do ‘supported permitted work’ and earn up to £120 a week. Supported permitted work must be one of the following:

  • part of a treatment programme
  • supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation whose job it is to arrange work for disabled people

When you start working

Fill in form PW1 and send it to the Jobcentre Plus office that deals with your benefit.

You need to tell Jobcentre Plus if you do any volunteer work (this normally doesn’t 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.