The UK Rules
'Follow the Regulations'
Qualifying Criteria

Employment Support Allowance Eligibility

ESA eligibility criteria is finally determined by which other specific benefits you are claiming and your capability to work - or not.

ESA ELIGIBILITY: Do you have a severe illness or a disability that affects your ability to work or start a job? If so, the following criteria must apply to be eligible for ESA:

As a rule, those who are employed, self-employed, or unemployed are also entitled to apply for Employment Support Allowance.

The ESA eligibility criteria means you must have an illness or disability that affects your ability to perform two or more work days consecutively. It may also apply if you are getting special medical treatment.

If you are moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, payment of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is now included in the shared arrangements between the two countries.

This means you must inform the ESA Centre of the change of address on arrival in your new location if you move.

Note: Use a benefits calculator to check your eligibility and ESA qualifying criteria.

ESA Abroad: Living or Working Overseas

Working or living abroad may affect your eligibility to claim Employment and Support Allowance but you may still qualify if:

ESA Entitlement for Repeat Claims

As a rule, being assessed as capable of doing some work following your Work Capability Assessment means you would be ineligible to claim ESA on a repeat basis.

Exceptions to this ESA qualifying criteria could be when your current health condition significantly deteriorates. The same exception applies if you claim for a different medical condition.

Work Capability Assessment

A letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) informs you where to go for your Work Capability Assessment. The letter also explains what to do. In some cases you can get an audio recording of the face-to-face assessment.

This occurs while your claim is being assessed. You must fill in a 'DWP limited capability for work questionnaire' during the application. The rules for this are different in Northern Ireland.

Note: Your benefit may be stopped if you fail to fill in the questionnaire or miss the assessment.

ESA Supported Permitted Work Criteria

If you are working your ESA benefit rates are not usually affected providing you:

If you perform 'Employment Support Allowance permitted work' you can also earn up to £120 a week. This is because it is part of a treatment programme.

Supported permitted work may also get supervised by a representative from a local council. It might also be someone from a voluntary organisation who can arrange work projects for disabled people.

Even so, if you do volunteer work you must inform Jobcentre Plus. They will need to know if you start performing permitted or supported permitted work.

They will send you the 'ESA Permitted Work Form PW1' to fill in and return to them. As a rule, it does not affect your eligibility for ESA.

Note: You must inform the Jobcentre Plus office dealing with your claim if your circumstances change. Examples include moving abroad or your income changes.

Your Household Income and Savings

You do not qualify for income-related Employment Support Allowance if your savings are more than £16,000. Your household earnings may also affect your income-related or contribution-based ESA. Household income can include:

Universal Credit

Receiving Universal Credit means you will not be eligible to get income-related ESA. Even so, attending the Work Capability Assessment could mean that you qualify for the limited capability for work (LCW). It also applies to some elements of the limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA).

Employment and Support Allowance Eligibility Criteria and Entitlement in the United Kingdom