Benefits & credits: Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

Notes

1. Overview

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is at least £57.35 a week to help you while you look for work.

How much you get depends on your circumstances and the type of JSA you qualify for.

To qualify for JSA you usually have to be:

When you apply for JSA, you must go to an interview to complete your claim.

You must go to a Jobcentre (usually every 2 weeks or when asked) to show how you’ve been searching for a job to keep getting JSA. This is known as ‘signing on’.

2. What you'll get

There are 2 types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). Jobcentre Plus will work out the type you get and how much tax will be charged.

JSA does not affect Child Benefit or child tax credit.

Use a benefits calculator to estimate your JSA, see which type you get and how JSA affects your other benefits.

Contribution-based JSA

You can only get contribution-based JSA for 182 days (approximately 6 months). You may be able to get income-based JSA after this.

Age Weekly amount
16 to 24 £57.35
25 or over £72.40

You could get this if you’ve paid enough Class 1 National Insurance contributions (NICs) in the last 2 tax years.

Your income or savings don’t usually affect how much you get (unless you get money from a part-time job or an occupational or private pension).

Income-based JSA

Status Weekly amount
Single (under 25) £57.35
Single (25 or over) £72.40
Couples (both aged 18 or over) £113.70
Lone parent (18 or over) £72.40
Lone parent (under 18) £57.35

You could get this if you’ve not paid enough National Insurance as an employee and you’re on a low income.

Income-based JSA is means tested. Your income and savings can affect how much you get.

How you’re paid

Payments are usually made every 2 weeks.

All benefits, pensions and allowances are normally paid into an account, eg a bank account.

Your circumstances change

Tell Jobcentre Plus if your circumstances change as this can affect how much you get and you might be committing benefit fraud. For example, you start working or your income changes.

Volunteering won’t normally affect your JSA but report it before you start.

You must go to a Jobcentre (usually every 2 weeks or when asked) to show how you’ve been searching for a job to keep getting JSA. This is known as ‘signing on’.

The benefit cap

The benefit cap limits the amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. Some individual benefits aren’t affected, but it may affect the total amount of benefit you get.

3. Eligibility

To get Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) you must:

  • be 18 or over but below State Pension age - there are some exceptions if you’re 16 or 17
  • not be in full-time education
  • be in England, Scotland or Wales
  • be able and available for work
  • be actively seeking work
  • work on average less than 16 hours a week
  • go to a JSA interview

Also, to get income-based JSA you (and your partner if you have one):

  • must usually work less than 24 hours a week (on average)
  • must have £16,000 or less in savings

Use a benefits calculator to check your eligibility.

There are certain eligibility rules for lone parents who want to claim JSA.

The eligibility rules are different if you live in Northern Ireland.

Your income

Your household income can affect how much income-based JSA you get. Income includes money from savings (if you have more than £6,000), pensions and earnings.

Self-employed

You can’t usually get contribution-based JSA if you’re self-employed. You must have paid enough Class 1 National insurance, and self-employed people pay Class 2 or 4. You could get income-based JSA, tax credits or Employment and Support Allowance instead.

16 to 17 years olds

JSA isn’t usually paid to 16 or 17 year olds or people in full-time education, except in certain circumstances. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus for advice.

18 to 19 year olds

You usually can’t get JSA if:

  • you’re in full-time education
  • your parents receive Child Benefit for you

You may be able to get Income Support. If you’ve just left education, wait until your Child Benefit ends before applying for JSA.

Full-time students

Full-time students can’t usually get JSA until their course has officially finished - check the date with your college or university. You may be able to claim JSA during the summer holiday if you have children.

You can usually do an Open University course or short course (2 weeks or less) without it affecting your JSA - tell Jobcentre Plus before you start.

Part-time students

You can get JSA while studying part-time if you can combine your course with a job, or are willing to give up your course for a job.

New or recently returned to the UK

To get income-based JSA you must prove that you’ve been living in the UK for 3 months before you claim if you’re:

  • a UK national who has recently returned from abroad and you haven’t worked since coming back to the UK
  • an EEA national and you haven’t worked since arriving in the UK

If you’re an EEA national who has worked or been self-employed in the UK since you arrived, you may have to provide:

  • evidence of your earnings
  • details of employment

You must go to a Jobcentre (usually every 2 weeks or when asked) to show how you’ve been searching for a job to keep getting JSA. This is known as ‘signing on’.

4. How to claim

Claim JSA online

You can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) online.

Rapid reclaims

You can make a ‘rapid reclaim’ if you’ve had JSA in the last 182 days (approximately 6 months). Reclaims can be made online and should take about 10 minutes.

You will still have to attend an interview at a Jobcentre to get JSA.

Claim JSA by phone

Contact Jobcentre Plus if you can’t apply online.

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Welsh language: 0800 012 1888
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

What you need to know

JSA interview

To complete your claim you must go to an interview at your local Jobcentre. If you don’t, you won’t get any JSA. If you apply online, you’ll get a text or phone call within 2 working days to arrange this.

At the interview you have to agree things like:

  • what steps you can take to find work - eg improving your skills
  • how you can improve your chances of getting a job - eg get help on writing a CV, preparing for interviews, looking for work

This is called a ‘Jobseeker’s Agreement’. You can take someone with you to a JSA interview.

Your JSA may be stopped if you don’t follow your agreement and can’t give a good reason.

You may have to sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’ instead if you live in a certain area and make a new claim for JSA.

JSA joint claims

You must make a joint claim with your partner if all the following apply:

  • you both want to claim JSA
  • both of you are 18 or over
  • you’re both under state pension age
  • neither of you are responsible for a child

Contact Jobcentre Plus if you’re not sure about making a joint claim.

If you live in Northern Ireland, contact your local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits Office.

5. Further information

Claimant Commitment

You may have to sign a Claimant Commitment if you live in a certain area and make a new claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or complete the Work Programme.

This is an agreement that you’ll complete certain tasks in order to claim JSA. You and your adviser will agree what goes in your Claimant Commitment, eg:

  • what you need to do to look for work (eg registering with recruitment agencies, writing a CV)
  • how many hours you need to spend looking for work each week
  • your circumstances (eg work history, health, family or caring responsibilities)

Your benefit might be cut if you don’t do what you’ve agreed to in your Claimant Commitment.

Your Claimant Commitment will be unique to you and it’ll be updated if your circumstances change.

Plan and record your job seeking

You’ll have a personal work plan to help you:

  • plan what you need to do to find a job
  • keep a record of what happened
  • prove to your adviser that you’ve been looking for work

Appeals

You can appeal against the decision about your JSA if you’re unhappy with it.

Check the date on your decision letter. There are different ways to appeal if your decision was made:

JSA complaints

You can complain about Jobcentre Plus if you’re unhappy with the service you’ve received.

When your JSA can be stopped

Your JSA could be stopped as a penalty (known as a sanction) for example if you:

  • don’t go to a Jobcentre Plus when asked
  • turn down a job or training
  • don’t apply for any jobs
  • don’t go to any training booked for you
  • leave your job or training without a good reason or because of your behaviour

A Jobcentre Plus adviser can tell you how long your JSA will be stopped for. It could be up to 3 years.

You may get hardship payments if you’re suffering financial hardship - check with the Jobcentre.

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