Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

Notes

1. How it works

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

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

What you need to do

  1. Check you’re eligible.

  2. Make a claim and go to an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus office.

  3. Keep to your agreement to look for work.

Your JSA payments will be stopped if you don’t keep to your agreement to look for work and can’t give a good reason.

What you’ll get

There’s a maximum amount you can get - but how much you’re entitled to depends on things like your age, income and savings.

Use a benefits calculator to check how much JSA you can get, and how your other benefits will be affected.

Age JSA weekly amount
18 to 24 up to £57.90
25 or over up to £73.10
Couples (both aged over 18) up to £114.85

You can’t get income-based JSA and Universal Credit at the same time.

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.

What type of JSA you get

You can get JSA based on either:

Jobcentre Plus will work out which type you can get.

Contribution-based JSA

You may get contribution-based JSA if you’ve paid enough Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the last 2 tax years.

You can get it even if your partner works or you have savings.

Income-based JSA

You may get income-based JSA if you don’t qualify for contribution-based JSA.

You’ll get income-based JSA if all of the following apply:

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

One of the following must also apply:

  • 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

2. Eligibility

You could get Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) if all of the following apply:

  • you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 or 17 - contact Jobcentre Plus for advice)
  • you’re under State Pension age
  • you’re not in full-time education
  • you’re in England, Scotland or Wales
  • you’re available for work
  • you’re actively seeking work
  • you work on average less than 16 hours per week

The rules are different in Northern Ireland.

Use a benefits calculator to check if you can get JSA.

Claim with your partner (joint claim)

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

  • you both want to claim JSA
  • at least one of you is 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.

18 to 19 year olds

You can’t usually get JSA if your parents receive Child Benefit for you.

If you’ve just left education, you won’t be able to get JSA until your parents stop getting Child Benefit for you. You may be able to get Income Support instead.

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.

If you have children, you may be able to claim JSA during the summer holiday.

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 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 at least 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

3. How to claim or reclaim

Check you’re eligible before you apply.

Apply online

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 office.

You won’t get JSA if you don’t go to the interview.

Reclaim JSA (‘rapid reclaim’)

You can make a quicker claim for JSA online if you’ve had JSA in the last 26 weeks.

You will have to start the application again. It should take about 20 minutes.

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

If you can’t apply online

Contact Jobcentre Plus if you can’t apply online.

Your JSA interview

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

You must bring both:

  • 2 forms of identification, eg passport, driving licence
  • your P45 (if you have one)

You don’t need to wait for your P45 before making a claim.

You may need to bring in other documents based on the information you provide so that Jobcentre Plus can make a decision on your claim.

You can take someone with you to your JSA interview.

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

At your JSA interview you must sign an agreement about what steps you’ll take to look for a job. This is called a ‘Claimant Commitment’.

You and your work coach will agree what goes in your Claimant Commitment. This could 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

What you agree to do will depend on things like:

  • your health
  • your responsibilities at home
  • how much help you need to get work or increase your income

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.

Appeal a decision

You can appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal if you disagree with a decision.

Make a complaint

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

4. Your JSA claim

After you claim JSA, a work coach will help you make a plan to find a job.

This will help you:

  • keep a record of what happened
  • prove to your work coach that you’ve been looking for work

Your work coach may tell you to take part in an employment programme, like the Work Programme.

Reporting to a Jobcentre Plus office

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

You must show your work coach what you’ve been doing to look for work, eg proof of job applications and interviews.

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

If 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.

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

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

When payment can be stopped

Your JSA payments will be stopped for a period if you don’t do something your work coach or the Work Programme asks you to do. This is called being ‘sanctioned’. For example, if you:

  • don’t accept or keep to your agreement to look for work
  • don’t go to a Jobcentre Plus office 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. You may be able to keep your payment if you have good reason.

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

Find out more about how long your JSA payment could be stopped for.

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 can ask Jobcentre Plus to reconsider the decision to stop payment. If they do not change their decision, you can appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.

You should continue with any JSA claim until the dispute is settled.

If you claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction

You should contact your local council immediately. They’ll tell you what to do to continue getting support.

If your claim is ended

Your JSA claim may 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 either:

  • 4 weeks if it’s the first time your claim has been ended
  • 13 weeks if a previous claim has been ended within the past year

Hardship payments

You may be able to get a hardship payment if your JSA payments have been stopped. You don’t have to pay it back.

A hardship payment is a reduced amount (usually 60%) of your JSA.

Eligibility

You can get a hardship payment if you can’t pay for rent, heating, food or other basic needs for you or your child.

You must be 18 or over.

You’ll have to show that you’ve tried to find the money from somewhere else, eg borrowing from a friend or working extra hours.

How to claim

Speak to your Jobcentre Plus adviser or work coach to find out how to claim a hardship payment.

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

If you find a job

Contact Jobcentre Plus to end your JSA claim if you find a job.