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Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance

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Replacing Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is aimed at people who can’t work due to sickness or disability and who don’t receive statutory sick pay. As well as offering financial support for those unable to work, the benefit also helps people who want and are able to work.

Work Capability Assessment

In order to claim ESA you’ll have to undergo a Work Capability Assessment. This usually involves filling out a questionnaire and attending a medical examination with a healthcare professional. The appointment will assess your ability to carry out a range of tasks and will take both physical and mental health into account. The Work Capability Assessment for ESA has been criticised in the past for being much harsher than the equivalent test to claim Incapacity Benefit.


Claimants of ESA fall into two groups and if you are eligible to claim ESA you’ll be added to either a work-related activity group or a support group depending on the findings of the Work Capability Assessment.

If you are placed in the former group then you’ll be required to attend interviews with an advisor who is there to help you gain skills and eventually find a job. Your benefit will usually be sanctioned if you don’t turn up for interviews or take part in work-related activities. The support group is aimed at people who are severely restricted in what they can do. These people don’t need to attend interviews but can be allocated an advisor if they wish.

Types of ESA

There are two ways in which you can claim the benefit: contribution-based ESA and income-based ESA. You can claim contribution-based ESA if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions. Unless you are in the support group, you need to reapply every year so that your NI contributions can be reassessed.

If you’re on a low income you can claim income-based ESA, which you can get on its own or use to top up contribution-based payments. There is no time limit on how long you can claim the income-based part of the benefit.

Employment and Support Allowance


ESA payments are made into your bank account every two weeks. For the first 13 weeks you’ll usually be awarded an assessment rate while your application is dealt with. This amounts to up to £57.90 per week if you’re under 25 or £73.10 per week if you’re 25 or over. After that you’ll receive up to £102.15 if you’re placed in the work-related activity group or £109.30 if you’re in the support group. Those in the support group who claim income-based ESA are entitled to a further £15.75 a week in an Enhanced Disability Premium.

Permitted work

You can still claim ESA if you are employed or self-employed. ‘Permitted work’ allows claimants to work 16 hours a week or less and earn a maximum of £104 per week. The length of time you can do this for is capped at 52 weeks unless you’re in the support group, in which case you can go on working for any length of time.



About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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