Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)


Part 1: Overview

If you’re ill or disabled, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) offers you:

  • financial support if you’re unable to work
  • personalised help so that you can work if you’re able to

You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.

You might be transferred to ESA if you’ve been claiming other benefits like Income Support or Incapacity Benefit.

You might have to go to regular interviews with Jobcentre Plus to keep getting ESA.


Part 2: What you’ll get

You can get financial support and work-related support through Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Financial support

Time period Circumstance Weekly amount
First 13 weeks Under 25 £56.80
First 13 weeks 25 or over £71.70
From 14 weeks Work Related Activity Group Up to £100.15
From 14 weeks Support Group Up to £106.50


Use the benefits adviser to work out how much you can get.

How much you get depends on your circumstances (eg income) and the type of ESA you qualify for:

  • contribution-based ESA – usually you get this if you’ve got enough National Insurance contributions (NICs)
  • income-based ESA – usually you get this if you’re on a low income or you don’t have enough NICs

After 13 weeks of ESA you’ll be put into a group.

Work-Related Activity Group

You have to go to regular interviews with an adviser. The adviser can help with things like job goals, improving your skills, work-related issues.

Benefit sanctions

Your ESA can be reduced if you don’t go to interviews or do work-related activity as agreed with your adviser. The reduction can continue up to 4 weeks after you’ve gone to the interview.

You’ll get a ‘sanction letter’ that says you haven’t gone to an interview and your benefit may be affected. Tell your ESA adviser if you have a good reason for missing the interview.

You’ll get another letter if the decision is made to give you a sanction. Your benefit will only be affected once a decision has been made.

If you get a sanction:

  • the letter tells you how to appeal
  • you can also ask for a ‘hardship payment’

Support Group

You don’t have to go to interviews, but you can ask to talk to a personal adviser if you want to. You’re usually in this group if your illness or disability severely limits what you can do.

Contribution-based ESA lasts 1 year if you’re in the Work-Related Activity Group (you may be moved onto income-based ESA after this time).

How you’re paid

All benefits, pensions and allowances are paid into an account, eg your bank account.

The benefit cap puts a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. The benefit cap started to affect some local councils from 15 April 2013. The cap won’t affect you if you’re in the Support Group.


Part 3: Eligibility

You may get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if your illness or disability affects your ability to work and you’re:

  • under State Pension age
  • not getting Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay and you haven’t gone back to work
  • not getting Jobseeker’s Allowance

You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student on Disability Living Allowance.

You may get ESA if you’ve lived or work abroad and paid enough National Insurance (UK or equivalent).

Use the benefits adviser to check your eligibility.

Working and claiming ESA

Usually your ESA isn’t affected if you:

  • work and earn up to £20 a week
  • work and earn up to £99.50 a week doing work supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation
  • work less than 16 hours a week, earn up to £99.50 a week for up to 52 weeks

This is called ‘permitted work’.

You can also do ‘supported permitted work’ for less than 16 hours a week and earn up to £99.50 a week if your illness or disability very severely limits your ability to work.

Supported permitted work is supervised by someone from a local council or a voluntary organisation whose job it is to arrange work for disabled people.

You must tell the Department of Work and Pension (DWP) if you start doing permitted work. They will send you form PW1 to fill in and send back to them.

Any volunteer work you do needs to be reported and can affect your ESA.

Tell the Jobcentre Plus office dealing with your claim if your circumstances change – this can affect your ESA (eg income changes, you go abroad).

Your income and savings

Your income may affect your income-based or contribution-based ESA. Income can include:

  • you and your partner’s income
  • savings over £6,000
  • pension income

You won’t qualify for income-based ESA if you have savings over £16,000.

Work Capability Assessment

You’ll be asked to fill out the ‘Limited capability for work questionnaire’ during your application.

During the first 13 weeks of ESA you might also have to go to a Work Capability Assessment. This is to see if your illness or disability affects your ability to work, and can include a medical assessment.

You’ll get a letter explaining what to do. Your benefit may be stopped if you don’t go.

Universal Credit

A new benefit called Universal Credit started to be introduced in some areas of the country from 29 April 2013. If you get Universal Credit, it might affect how much you get from other benefits.


Part 4: How to claim

The quickest way to apply for Employment and Support Allowance is by phone.

Contact centre numbers
Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

You can also post form ESA1 to your local Jobcentre Plus office. The interactive version of form ESA1 can be filled out on a computer.

What you’ll need before making a new claim

You’ll need the following when you make a claim:

  • National Insurance number
  • medical certificate
  • GP’s address and phone number
  • home and mobile telephone numbers
  • mortgage or landlord details
  • council tax bill
  • employer’s address and telephone number and dates of employment or last day worked
  • bank account details
  • details of any other money you are getting, eg benefits or sick pay

Appeal a decision

You can appeal a decision about your Employment and Support Allowance if you’re unhappy with it.


Part 5: Further information

Moving from Incapacity Benefits to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

You’ll be told whether you’re in the Support Group or Work-Related Activity Group after the review of your claim to:

  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support paid because of illness or disability
  • Severe Disablement Allowance

Your benefit will be transferred automatically and there will be no break in the payments you receive.

If the amount of Incapacity Benefit you get is more than the amount of ESA, you’ll get a ‘top-up payment’. This means that you’ll continue to get the same amount of money as you get now. The amount of benefit you get won’t rise until the amount of ESA catches up with the amount of the top-up payment.

If the amount of Incapacity Benefit you get is lower than the amount of ESA, you will get more money. Your money will increase as soon as you move to ESA.

Download ‘Employment and Support Allowance: help if you’re ill or disabled’ (PDF, 1.1MB)


Last updated: 16 May 2013



Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and The Work Capability Assessments – ATOS HEALTHCARE

Employment and Support Allowance

Anyone who is claiming Employment and Support Allowance is required by the DWP to have an assessment – called a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) – that focuses on how their illness or condition affects them on a day-to-day basis.

Every time the DWP refers a claim for a WCA, a questionnaire ESA50 is automatically issued to the person claiming.  When the questionnaire is returned to Atos Healthcare, a fully trained healthcare professional carries out an initial paper-based assessment.  During this early check, they look for information that would indicate the person does not need to be invited for a face-to-face assessment and advise DWP accordingly. The DWP may have enough information to make an immediate decision on entitlement to benefit.

All other individuals are required by the DWP to have a face-to-face assessment.  The majority of assessments are carried out in an Atos Healthcare Assessment Centre. Where there is medical evidence confirming a person cannot leave their home and attend an Assessment Centre a home visit can be arranged.

ESA has replaced Incapacity Benefit for all new claimants and now everyone who was already claiming incapacity benefits is gradually being reassessed for ESA.

During a claim period, it is normal for people to be asked to attend a WCA more than once and each time they will be sent a new questionnaire to ensure they have the opportunity to provide the latest information on how their condition currently affects them.

More detailed information is available at GOV.UK Website (Opens in new Window)

Work Capability Assessment

This is one part of the process used by the DWP to assess a person’s entitlement to ESA.  It starts with the issue of an ESA questionnaire.

The assessment will look at the effects of any health condition or disability on a person’s ability to carry out a range of everyday work-related activities. It will be carried out by a healthcare professional (HCP) who could be a doctor, nurse or a physiotherapist.

The healthcare professional will discuss medical history and activities undertaken in a typical day. This information will be recorded but will not be a word for word record.

A person attending an assessment can bring extra information or medical information with them to assist the healthcare professional with their report. They can bring a companion for help and support who can also supply information.

Where appropriate there may be a physical examination which is designed to assess a person’s function and is not the same as would be encountered in a diagnostic or treatment setting with a GP or Consultant.

Verbal consent will be obtained for any physical examination to proceed, should it be necessary.  A person is encouraged to do as much of the examination as they feel comfortable with. There is no necessity to remove items of intimate clothing and sometimes a physical examination is not always required.

Once the healthcare professional has all the necessary information the face-to-face interview ends. The healthcare professional will then take some time evaluating the information obtained, suggesting the most appropriate “descriptors” and writing a justification of their choices, to complete the report for the DWP. [Descriptors are phrases defined by the DWP which are used within a medical report to describe the extent to which a person is able to undertake a particular physical or mental function]

The report is known as an ESA85 and will be sent electronically to the DWP immediately after completion.

Further detailed information about the Work Capability Assessment is contained in the guide produced by the DWP

DWP Statistics can be found HERE



Statistics – Tabulation Tool

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