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HMRC internal manual

Employment Income Manual

Social security benefits: Employment & Support Allowance: Summary

From 27 October 2008 Employment and Support Allowance replaced Incapacity Benefit (see EIM76180) and Income Support paid on incapacity grounds for anyone starting a claim. However, existing recipients of Incapacity Benefit or Income Support will initially continue to receive their existing benefits, so long as they continue to satisfy the entitlement conditions.

BackgroundEmployment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a new way of helping people with an illness or disability to move into work, if they are able.

ESA offers personalised support and financial help, so that recipients can engage in appropriate work, if they are able.

It provides access to a specially trained personal adviser and a wide range of further services including employment, training and condition management support, to help recipients manage and cope with their illness or disability in a work context.

Central to ESA is the new medical assessment called the Work Capability Assessment which assesses what a person can rather than can’t do and identifies the health related support that might be needed.

Most people claiming ESA will be expected to take appropriate steps to help prepare for work, including attending a series of work-focused interviews with their personal adviser.

Under ESA, if a recipient has an illness or disability that severely affects their ability to work, they will get increased financial support and will not be expected to prepare for a return to work; however they can volunteer to do so if they want to.

An individual may be able to get ESA if that person has an illness or disability that affects their ability to work, and they:

  • are over 16 and under State Pension age, and
  • are unemployed, or
  • self employed, or
  • work for an employer but cannot get Statutory Sick Pay, or
  • have been getting Statutory Sick Pay but it has now stoppedESA consists of two phases; the assessment phase and the main phase.

In most cases, a person qualifying for ESA will not get any money for the first 3 days of the claim. These are called ‘waiting days’. Then they will get the assessment phase rate while their ability to work is assessed.

The assessment phase rate is paid for the first 13 weeks of a claim while a decision is made on capability for work through the Work Capability Assessment.

The main phase rate starts from week 14 of a claim, if the Work Capability Assessment shows that illness or disability does limit the recipient’s ability to work.

ESA is managed by the Department for Work and Pensions.