Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) provides financial help to people who have a limited capability for work because of illness or disability and support to get back into work if you're able to.

Some people may already be on two old types of ESA, known as 'income-based ESA' and 'contribution-based ESA'. New claims for these types of ESA can no longer be made.

New applicants can apply for 'new style' Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Eligibility for 'new style' ESA

You must:

  • Have a limited capability for work (tested by the Work Capability Assessment as described below)
  • Be at least 16 years of age
  • Be under state pension age
  • Have worked as an employee or have been self-employed
  • Have paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last 2 to 3 years.

You can get Universal Credit at the same time or instead of 'new style' ESA.

You cannot get 'new style' ESA if you claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Statutory Sick Pay. 

How to apply

If you live in England, Scotland, or Wales, you can apply online on GOV.UK - Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): How to claim - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can apply online on nidirect - Employment and Support Allowance | nidirect.

New applicants will usually get the 'assessment rate' for 13 weeks while your claim is being assessed.

Once you are assessed and have usually completed a Work Capability Assessment, you will be placed in one of two groups depending on your ability to work.

If you're in the Work-Related Activity Group, you will have to go for regular interviews with a work coach to help improve your skills, create a CV and help get you back into work.

If you're in the Support Group, you do not have to go for interviews.

You can see how much ESA you may receive here - Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): What you'll get - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Permitted work

You can work while claiming ESA as long as the following apply:

  • You work less than 16 hours a week
  • You must not be earning above the eligibility threshold. As of March 2023, your must not earn more than £152 a week.

You can do as many voluntary hours as you wish.

You should tell Jobcentre Plus about any work or volunteering you are undertaking.


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MDUK helpline

Monday to Thursday, 10am to 2pm
0800 652 6352