Benefits & credits: Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

Notes

1. Overview

You can apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) to help you while you look for work.

How much you get depends on your circumstances.

To get JSA you usually have to:

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

After you’ve applied

You’ll have to accept a ‘Claimant Commitment’ if you want to claim JSA. This is an agreement that you’ll complete certain tasks, eg make a work plan.

A work coach will help you to make a work plan for how you’re going to find a job.

What you agree to do will depend on things such as your health, your responsibilities at home and how much help you need to get work or increase your income.

Your JSA payments could be stopped for a period (‘sanctioned’) if you don’t do something you agreed to in your Claimant Commitment and you can’t give a good reason.

You must go to a Jobcentre Plus office (usually every 2 weeks or when asked). This is known as ‘signing on’.

When you sign on, you’ll need to show your work coach what you’ve been doing to look for work, eg job applications and interviews.

If you stop claiming JSA and claim again within 26 weeks, you can make a ‘rapid reclaim’.

Make an appeal

You can appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal if you disagree with a decision. You must usually ask for ‘mandatory reconsideration’ before you appeal.

JSA complaints

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

Further information

2. What you'll get

How much you get depends on things like your income, savings and if you claim as an individual or a couple.

There are 2 types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). Jobcentre Plus will work out which type you can get. You can use a benefits calculator to find out how much you’re entitled to.

You can get JSA as well as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.

Contribution-based JSA

Age JSA weekly amount
18 to 24 up to £57.35
25 or over up to £72.40

You’ll get contribution-based JSA if you’ve paid enough Class 1 National Insurance contributions (NICs) in the 2 tax years before the benefit year you’re claiming in. A benefit year runs from the first Sunday in January to the Saturday before the first Sunday in January of the next year.

That means you must have:

  • worked for 26 weeks in one of these years earning at least the lower earnings limit for that tax year
  • paid class 1 contributions or received National Insurance credits in both of those tax years that amount to 50 times the lower earnings limit
£ per week 2012 to 2013 2013 to 2014 2014 to 2015
Lower earnings limit, primary Class 1 £107 £109 £111

Income-based JSA

Age JSA weekly amount
18 to 24 £57.35
25 or over £72.40
Couples (both aged over 18) £113.70

You’ll get income-based JSA if one of the following applies:

  • you were paid less than £153 per week on average when you were employed over the last 2 years
  • you’ve been claiming contribution-based JSA for over 182 days
  • you haven’t worked over the last 2 years

How you’re paid

Payments are usually made every 2 weeks.

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

Your circumstances change

You must tell Jobcentre Plus if your circumstances change, eg you start working or your income changes. This might affect how much you get.

You might be committing benefit fraud if you choose not to report a change.

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

The benefit cap

There’s a limit on the amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can 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 available for work
  • be actively seeking work
  • work on average less than 16 hours per week

You must also go to a JSA interview after you apply.

Your income

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

The rules are different in Northern Ireland.

Income-based JSA

To get income-based JSA:

  • you must work less than 16 hours per week on average
  • your partner (if you have one) must work less than 24 hours per week on average
  • must have £16,000 or less in savings

Use a benefits calculator to check your eligibility.

Self-employed

You may be able to get income-based JSA, tax credits or Employment and Support Allowance.

You can’t usually get contribution-based JSA.

16 to 17 year olds

Call or go to your local Jobcentre Plus to find out if you’re eligible.

18 to 19 year olds

You can’t usually 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, you won’t be able to get JSA until your parents stop getting Child Benefit for you.

Students

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.

Part-time students

You can get JSA while studying part time (including part-time Open University Courses) as long as:

  • you take a job if it’s offered to you
  • you do everything you can to look for work, as agreed with your work coach

If you want to take a short course (2 weeks or less), check with your work coach before you start.

New or recently returned to the UK

You may be able to get income-based JSA if you can prove you’ve been living in the UK, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland or the Channel Islands for 3 months before you claim, and you’re either:

  • a UK national who’s recently returned from abroad and you haven’t worked since coming back
  • an EEA national

4. How to claim

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

You’ll get a text or phone call within 2 working days to arrange a JSA interview at your local Jobcentre Plus.

Rapid reclaims

You can make a ‘rapid reclaim’ if you’ve had JSA in the last 26 weeks. Making a reclaim online should take about 10 minutes.

You’ll still have to attend an interview at a Jobcentre Plus to get JSA.

JSA joint claims

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

  • you both want to claim JSA
  • one 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. Contact your local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits Office if you live in Northern Ireland.

If you can’t apply online

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

JSA interview

You must go to an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus - if you don’t, you won’t get any JSA.

Jobcentre Plus will contact you to arrange this after you’ve applied.

At the interview you must 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 with writing a CV, preparing for interviews, looking for work

You can take someone with you to a JSA interview.

Claimant Commitment

A Claimant Commitment is an agreement about what steps you’ll take to look for a job.

Your JSA might be stopped if you don’t do what you’ve agreed to in your Claimant Commitment and you can’t give a good reason.

You must sign one if you make a claim for JSA or claim it again after completing the Work Programme.

You and your work coach will agree what goes in your Claimant Commitment. It might include:

  • 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

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 work coach that you’ve been looking for work

If you are a victim of domestic abuse

You might be able to get a break of up to 13 weeks from job seeking if you are a victim of domestic abuse - speak to your work coach if you need this support.

After you’ve applied

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

5. When payment can be stopped

Your Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payments will be stopped for a period (‘sanctioned’) if you don’t do something your work coach or employment scheme provider asks you to do - for example, if you:

  • don’t accept or keep to your Claimant Commitment
  • don’t go to a Jobcentre Plus when asked
  • turn down a job or training course
  • don’t apply for any jobs you’re told about
  • don’t take part in any interviews you’re invited to
  • don’t go to any training booked for you or take part in employment schemes
  • leave your last job or training without good reason or because of your behaviour

Contact Jobcentre Plus as soon as possible if any of these apply to you, and explain why. You may be able to keep your payment if you have good reason.

You will be told how long your payment will be stopped for. It could be between 4 weeks and 156 weeks (about 3 years).

When your claim is ended

Your JSA claim will be ended if you aren’t available for or actively seeking work. You can apply again straight away, but your payments will be stopped for a period of 4 to 13 weeks.

If your JSA payment is stopped

If your payment is stopped, you should keep looking for work. Your benefit payment could be stopped for longer if you don’t.

You should contact your local council immediately if you claim housing benefit or council tax reduction. They’ll tell you what to do to continue getting support.

Hardship funds

If your benefit payment is stopped, and you don’t have enough money to live on, you may be able to get a hardship payment. This is a reduced amount of JSA. Contact Jobcentre Plus to find out if you’re eligible.

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0345 608 8545
Textphone: 0345 608 8551
Welsh language 0345 600 3018
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

Further information