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Eligibility for ESA: Can You Claim?

ESA eligibility criteria has several determining factors. It depends on which other benefits you are claiming for and your capability to work - or not.

ESA ENTITLEMENT: 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:

Note: You cannot apply for the ‘new style’ ESA unless you have entitlement to apply for Universal Credit. Use a benefits calculatorto 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:

  • You have contributed enough UK National Insurance. The equivalent paid in an EEA country or one with which the UK has an agreement with may still qualify.
  • Worked abroad for an employer based in the UK and paid National Insurance Contributions for the first 52 weeks of that employment.
ESA Health and Work Conversation

As a rule, you must attend a health and work conversation. It is an opportunity to discuss what level of support you need. Once you claim for ESA you will get notified if you need to attend.

The health and work conversation will take place around four (4) weeks after the date of the claim. Not all ESA claims require a discussion (e.g. if a claimant is in hospital or has a terminal illness).

Note: Failing to attend a health and work conversation (when you should) may result in reduced benefits.

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 ‘Capability for work questionnaire‘ during the application. ESA questionnaire rules differ in Northern Ireland.

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

ESA Entitlement for Repeat Claims

As a rule, you lose ESA eligibility to make a repeat claim. This means the Work Capability Assessment found you were capable of doing some work. Exceptions do apply in circumstances such as if:

  • Your current health condition or disability deteriorated and became a lot worse.
  • You claim Employment and Support Allowance for a new condition.

Claiming ESA while Working

Some claimants can work and still claim for ESA. It would depend on how much you get paid and the number of hours you work.

ESA ‘Permitted Work’

Carrying out ‘permitted work’ does not usually affect claims for ESA payments. Permitted work has no maximum number of weeks that you can work. But, both of these must apply:

  • You earn no more than £152 a week.
  • You work for less than sixteen (16) hours a week.

Supported Permitted Work

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

Household income can affect entitlement for the income-related or contributory ESA. Typical sources of income include:

  • Money earned by you and your partner.
  • Personal savings over £6,000.
  • Payments from a pension.

Note: If you have savings over £16,000 you will not qualify for income-related ESA. The ‘new style ESA’ does not take into account any savings you may have.

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).


ESA Regulations: A financial benefit given to those who cannot work or need assistance to be in work.
ESA Rates 2022: A list explaining Employment and Support Allowance groups and the weekly amounts.
ESA Types: Check how different types of Employment and Support Allowance determine the payments.
How to Claim ESA: Check the different ways to apply but claiming by phone is often the quickest way.

ESA Eligibility Criteria: Entitlement for Employment and Support Allowance