Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a welfare benefit designed to provide financial support to individuals with limited capability to work due to a disability or health condition.

ESA is intended to replace the Incapacity Benefit and Income Support paid on the grounds of illness or disability. It is available to individuals at least 16 years old but below the State Pension age and with a disability or health condition that affects their ability to work.

ESA has two components:

Income-related ESA: This is means-tested and provides additional financial support to low-income or limited savings individuals.

Contributory ESA: This component is not means-tested and is based on an individual’s National Insurance contributions. It is available to individuals who have paid enough National Insurance contributions or have been credited with them.

Individuals need to undergo a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to claim ESA to determine their eligibility. The assessment evaluates the impact of their disability or health condition on their ability to work. It considers various factors such as physical and mental health, daily living, and work-related activities.

The amount of ESA a person receives depends on their circumstances, including their income, savings, and household composition. It is typically paid every two weeks, and the payment amount may vary for the different components of ESA.

It’s important to note that ESA’s specific details and eligibility criteria may change over time, so it’s always advisable to consult official government sources or relevant organisations for the most up-to-date information.

You cannot get ‘new style’ ESA if you’re getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer. You can apply for a ‘new style’ ESA up to 3 months before your SSP ends.

Working while you claim

You can usually work while you are claiming ESA if both of the following apply:

  • you work less than 16 hours a week
  • you do not earn more than £167 a week

You can do as many hours of voluntary work as you like.

Tell Jobcentre Plus about your work, including any volunteering, when you make a claim.

To claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the United Kingdom, you generally need to follow these steps:

Check your eligibility: Before making a claim, ensure that you meet the basic eligibility criteria. You should be at least 16 years old but below the State Pension age, have a disability or health condition affecting your ability to work, and live in the UK.

Gather necessary information: Collect important documents and information required during the application process. This may include your National Insurance number, medical evidence supporting your condition, income details, savings and employment history.

Begin the application: You can apply for ESA online. The specific process may vary, so it’s recommended to check the official government website or contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the most accurate information.

Phone application: Contact the ESA helpline on 0800 328 5644 to start the application process. They will guide you through the necessary steps and may ask you a series of questions to assess your eligibility.

Work Capability Assessment (WCA): After submitting your application, you will be scheduled for a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). This assessment helps determine the impact of your disability or health condition on your ability to work. A healthcare professional conducts the assessment. It may involve a face-to-face meeting or a review of your medical evidence.

Decision and notification: Once the WCA is complete, the DWP will assess your application and decide your eligibility for ESA. You will receive a letter informing you of the decision. If your claim is successful, the letter will outline the details of your ESA payment, any additional requirements and what to do next.

It’s important to note that the process and specific requirements for claiming ESA may change over time. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult the official government website or contact the relevant authorities, such as the DWP or a local Jobcentre Plus office, for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

If you’re eligible

DWP will contact you within 10 working days to schedule an appointment that you must attend. It will normally be over the phone with a work coach from your local Jobcentre Plus office.

Your work coach will explain what you need to do to get a ‘new style’ ESA. They will create an agreement with you called a ‘Claimant Commitment’.

You must agree to your Claimant Commitment before you can get a ‘new style’ ESA.

At the appointment, you’ll be asked to:

  • explain how your illness or disability affects your ability to work
  • provide medical evidence
  • agree to tell your local Jobcentre Plus if your circumstances change 

If a medical professional has said you might have 12 months or less to live, you will not need to attend an appointment or make a Claimant Commitment. 

If you’re not eligible

DWP will send you a letter within 10 working days of applying to explain why you’re not eligible for ESA.

If you disagree with a decision

You can challenge a decision about your claim. This is called asking for ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

More information can be found on https://www.gov.uk/mandatory-reconsideration