Guidance

New Style Employment and Support Allowance

You may be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance with, or instead of Universal Credit, depending on your National Insurance record.

Overview

If you are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work you may be able to get New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

New Style ESA is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit (UC).

New Style ESA is a contributory benefit. Normally, this means you may be able to get it if you’ve paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the 2 full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.

Why should you claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance?

Your (or your partner’s) savings will not affect how much New Style ESA you’re paid. If your partner works, it does not affect your claim.

Most income is not taken into account (but a personal pension can affect the amount you may receive).

While you receive New Style ESA you’ll earn Class 1 National Insurance credits, which can help towards your State Pension and other contributory benefits in the future.

It is a regular fortnightly payment.

This table shows what you may be able to claim depending on your circumstances.

Your situation New Style ESA Universal Credit
You’ve lost your job and you’re too sick to work. You need help with living costs e.g. rent.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).
You can claim New Style ESA – even if your partner works or you and your partner have savings over £16,000 You can also claim UC if you (and your partner) have £16,000 or less in savings between you.

Your partner’s income will be taken into account as you will need to claim UC as a couple.

UC is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for children and housing costs.

Any New Style ESA you receive will also be taken into account as income but you may still get UC.
You’ve lost your job and you’re too sick to work.

You have not paid any NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years
You are unlikely to get New Style ESA if you have not paid NI contributions. You can claim UC if you (and your partner) have £16,000 or less in savings between you.

Your partner’s income will be taken into account as you will need to claim UC as a couple.

UC is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for children and housing costs.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).

Between you, you and your partner have more than £16,000 in savings.
You can claim New Style ESA even if your partner works or you and your partner have savings over £16,000. You are unlikely to get UC because your savings are too high.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).

Your partner works.

Between you, you and your partner have less than £16,000 in savings.
You can claim New Style ESA, as your partner’s work does not affect it. You can also claim UC as you and your partner have less than £16,000 in savings.

Your partner’s income will be taken into account as you will need to claim UC as a couple.

Any New Style ESA you receive will also be taken into account as income but you may still get UC.
You work but you’re off sick and your Statutory Sick Pay has ended.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).
You can claim New Style ESA. If you and your partner have less than £16,000 of savings you might also get UC.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You receive pension income from previous employment.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).
You can claim New Style ESA.
Your pension income may be taken into account.
If you and your partner have less than £16,000 of savings you might also get UC.

Your pension income will be taken into account.

Any New Style ESA you receive will also be taken into account as income but you may still get UC.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You have children.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self-employed).
You can claim New Style ESA as you have paid NI contributions so may qualify.

New Style ESA does not include additional amounts for children.
You can also claim UC, as it is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for children.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You live in rented accommodation, or have a mortgage or home loan, and need help to pay the cost.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self-employed).
You can claim New Style ESA as you have paid NI contributions so may qualify.

New Style ESA does not include an additional amount for housing costs.
You can also claim UC, as it is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for your housing costs.

Eligibility

To get New Style ESA you usually need to have been working within the last 2 to 3 years, and have made (or been credited with) Class 1 or Class 2 National Insurance contributions.

This can be through employment or self–employment.

You will also need to have a fit note (sometimes called ‘sick note’ or ‘doctor’s note’) but you can start making your claim before you have one. If you have only just become ill you can self–certify for the first 7 days.

You cannot claim New Style ESA or UC if you get the Severe Disability Premium (SDP), or are entitled to it, or if you got or were entitled to the severe disability premium in the last month, and you’re still eligible for it. You might be able to claim other benefits.

How to apply

There are different ways to apply depending on if you get Universal Credit.

If you’re already getting Universal Credit, speak to your work coach or case manager about applying. You can do this by signing in to your Universal Credit account. You will not have another Work Capability Assessment.

If you have made an appointment with your work coach, you do not need to go to it at the moment because of coronavirus (COVID-19). The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you to let you know what you need to do instead.

If you’re not already getting Universal Credit, you’ll need to phone the Universal Credit helpline to arrange a new claim.

Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644 (choose option 2)
Textphone: 0800 328 1344 (choose option 2)
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 328 5644
Video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users - check you can use the service
Welsh language telephone: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

Your ESA interview

You’ll get a text, phone call or letter within 10 working days to arrange your telephone interview after you’ve applied.

During your telephone interview, you’ll be asked a few questions to prove your identity.

You and your work coach will talk about how your illness or disability affects your ability to work and the support you need.

Make an agreement to look for work (‘Claimant Commitment’)

You’ll agree what you need to do to get New Style ESA, for example agree to report any change of circumstances to your work coach. This is called a ‘Claimant Commitment’.

Work Capability Assessment

You may be required to attend a Work Capability Assessment to help DWP understand how your illness, health condition or disability affects your ability to work.

If you’re claiming both UC and New Style ESA, you’ll only attend one Work Capability Assessment.

If you have an assessment booked, you do not need to go to it at the moment because of coronavirus (COVID-19). The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you to let you know what you need to do instead.

Read more information on Work Capability Assessments.

Below is a document that can be printed out and folded into a handy guide.

After opening this document:

  • press Ctrl P or command P to access your print menu
  • the document should automatically reduce to fit the paper size you have selected to print (if not then make sure 100% is selected for A3 or 71% is selected for A4)
  • it should automatically print off double sided (if not then select the doubled sided and flip on the short edge options)

Print and fold: New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimant guide

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.

If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email accessible.formats@dwp.gov.uk. Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.

Published 7 December 2016
Last updated 27 March 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated with a revised process to apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

  2. Eligibility section amended to include information about Class 2 national contributions.

  3. 'New Style' Employment and Support Allowance claimant guides (print and fold versions) updated.

  4. Added Welsh translations.

  5. 'New style' Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) content updated and printable 'new style' ESA claimant guide added.

  6. Amended wording from 'you must have a Work Capability Assessment' to 'you may be required to attend a Work Capability Assessment'.

  7. Updated the weekly amount you receive if you're in the support group in line with changes to benefit rates for the 2019/2020 financial year.

  8. Updated the guidance on how to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance.

  9. Removed Universal Credit live telephone details as no longer relevant.

  10. Updated guidance to reflect that new claims to Universal Credit can now be made by households with more than 2 children.

  11. Updated Welsh guide with information about how the severe disability premium might affect a claim.

  12. Added information about how the Severe Disability Premium may affect your claim to new style Employment and Support Allowance.

  13. Updated to show that Universal Credit is now available everywhere in Great Britain.

  14. Universal Credit live service telephone helpline opening hours changed to 9am to 4pm.

  15. Added translation

  16. Added translation

  17. Added translation

  18. Added information about if you have more than 2 children.

  19. Updated the weekly amount you receive if you're in the Support group in line with changes to benefit rates for the 2018/2019 financial year.

  20. Explained that claimants will be placed in either the work-related activity group or the support group after their Work Capability Assessment instead of after 13 weeks. The timeframe can vary.

  21. Updated for changes to who can claim new style Employment and Support Allowance from 1 January 2018 if you don't live in a Universal Credit full service area.

  22. Updated guide with new 0800 freephone numbers for Universal Credit.

  23. Corrected the weekly amounts of new style Employment and Support Allowance for people who are still entitled after 13 weeks.

  24. First published.