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You might be able to get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have difficulty working because you’re sick or disabled. This is called having 'limited capability for work'.

Coronavirus - if you’ve been affected

You'll have limited capability for work and you won’t need to provide a fit note if you’re self-isolating because of coronavirus. For example, you might be self-isolating because you or someone you live with:

  • have coronavirus or symptoms of coronavirus – or you’re recovering from it
  • came into contact with someone who might have coronavirus

You can get ESA at the same time as other benefits like Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

You can’t usually get ESA at the same time as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Income Support.

If you’re employed but you can’t work, you’ll usually get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer for 28 weeks. You can’t get SSP and ESA at the same time, but you can start your ESA claim up to 3 months before your SSP ends. It’s worth claiming ESA early so your payments start as soon as possible.

You can get ESA if you’re self-employed - the application process is the same.

To claim ESA you must:

  • be aged 16 or over
  • live in England, Wales or Scotland

You can only do a limited amount of work while you get ESA – check what work you can do while getting ESA.

Check what type of ESA you can claim

The type of ESA that most people can claim is called 'new style' ESA.

There are 2 old types of ESA, which some people are still getting - they’re called ‘income-based ESA’ and ‘contribution-based ESA’.

If you’re already getting contribution-based ESA, you might be able to add income-based ESA to it. This could mean you’ll get more money.

You can't make a new claim for contribution-based ESA.

If you’ve been getting a severe disability premium (SDP), you can apply for new style ESA.

If you should have been getting an SDP but it’s not included in your benefits, talk to an adviser.

If you got a severe disability premium (SDP)

If you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP), you can claim new-style ESA or Universal Credit. You might be able to get both at the same time.

You might get an extra amount in your Universal Credit - this is called the ‘transitional element’.

You’ll get the extra amount if you apply for Universal Credit within a month after you stop getting the benefit with the SDP.

You can’t get the extra amount if you: 

  • were only getting the SDP with Housing Benefit

  • move in with a partner who is claiming Universal Credit

Before 27 January 2021, you couldn’t claim Universal Credit if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with an SDP.

If you applied for Universal Credit before 27 January 2021, talk to an adviser to check what you’re entitled to.

Check if you can claim new style ESA

You must have met National Insurance conditions for 2 tax years – in 2021 the tax years are 2018-19 and 2019-20.

You can check your National Insurance record on GOV.UK. It will say if you have a 'full year' of contributions, and if this comes from employment, self-employment or National Insurance credits.

You might have got National Insurance credits to fill gaps in your payments. For example, if you were getting benefits because you weren’t working or were ill.

To meet the National Insurance conditions, you’ll need to have a full year of contributions for both tax years. You must have either:

  • both full years from employment or self-employment
  • 1 full year from employment or self-employment and the other full year from National Insurance credits

If you don’t think you meet the National Insurance conditions or you can’t check your National Insurance record, you should still apply for new style ESA. The DWP will check your National Insurance record as part of your application.

Even if you don’t qualify for new style ESA, you might still get National Insurance credits if you have limited capability for work. These National Insurance credits might help you qualify for ESA in the future. They also count as contributions for your State Pension.

If you and your partner can both claim new style ESA, you should make separate claims.

Apply for new style ESA

If you’re eligible for new style ESA, you’ll usually have to apply online.

Find out how to claim new style ESA.

If you’re already getting contribution-based ESA, you might be able to add income-related ESA if you’re eligible for it.

To get income-related ESA:

  • you must have no income or a low income
  • you must have less than £16,000 in savings

If you live with a partner, the DWP will add your income and savings together.

If you’re in full time education, you can only get income-related ESA if you also get Disability Living Allowance (DLA),  Child Disability Payment in Scotland, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP).

If you're returning to the UK from abroad

You’ll need evidence that the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is now your main home and you plan to stay. This is called being 'habitually resident' – check how to prove you’re habitually resident.

If you’re from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

To apply for income-related ESA you need to show:

  • you have settled status or a right to claim benefits in the UK - this is called a 'right to reside'
  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay – this is known as being 'habitually resident'

Your right to reside depends on things like your work, family and personal situation. You can check if you have a right to reside.

You can only claim ESA if you have:

  • British citizenship and can prove you are ‘habitually resident’

  • pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme and another right to reside

  • indefinite leave to remain or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme

If none of these apply to you, you might be able to make a late application to the EU Settlement Scheme. You’ll need to have a good reason for missing the deadline of 30 June 2021. Find out more about claiming benefits if you’re from the EU.

Exemptions from the right to reside and habitual residence test

Your client might be exempt - for example, if they were the victim of trafficking. 

You can check if your client is exempt from the right to reside and habitual residence test.

Find out more about staying in the UK if you're from the EU.

To add income-related ESA you shouldn’t make a new claim - you should ask the DWP for a 'supersession' of the claim. You can ask for your claim to be superseded by either:

  • writing to the address on your ESA letters
  • calling the Jobcentre Plus

Jobcentre Plus

Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314

Welsh language: 0800 328 1744

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 169 0310

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL). 

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

If you’re struggling with living costs

You can check what benefits and extra help you can get.

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