You may be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance with, or instead of Universal Credit, depending on your National Insurance record.

Overview

If you are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work you may be able to get New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

You can also apply for New Style ESA if you cannot work while you are self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

New Style ESA is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit (UC).

New Style ESA is a contributory benefit. Normally, this means you may be able to get it if you’ve paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the 2 full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.

Why should you claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance?

Your (or your partner’s) savings will not affect how much New Style ESA you’re paid. If your partner works, it does not affect your claim.

Most income is not taken into account (but a personal pension can affect the amount you may receive).

While you receive New Style ESA you’ll earn Class 1 National Insurance credits, which can help towards your State Pension and other contributory benefits in the future.

It is a regular fortnightly payment.

This table shows what you may be able to claim depending on your circumstances.

Your situationNew Style ESAUniversal Credit
You’ve lost your job and you’re too sick to work. You need help with living costs e.g. rent.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).
You can claim New Style ESA – even if your partner works or you and your partner have savings over £16,000 You can also claim UC if you (and your partner) have £16,000 or less in savings between you.

Your partner’s income will be taken into account as you will need to claim UC as a couple.

UC is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for children and housing costs.

Any New Style ESA you receive will also be taken into account as income but you may still get UC.
You’ve lost your job and you’re too sick to work.

You have not paid any NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years
You are unlikely to get New Style ESA if you have not paid NI contributions. You can claim UC if you (and your partner) have £16,000 or less in savings between you.

Your partner’s income will be taken into account as you will need to claim UC as a couple.

UC is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for children and housing costs.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).

Between you, you and your partner have more than £16,000 in savings.
You can claim New Style ESA even if your partner works or you and your partner have savings over £16,000. You are unlikely to get UC because your savings are too high.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).

Your partner works.

Between you, you and your partner have less than £16,000 in savings.
You can claim New Style ESA, as your partner’s work does not affect it. You can also claim UC as you and your partner have less than £16,000 in savings.

Your partner’s income will be taken into account as you will need to claim UC as a couple.

Any New Style ESA you receive will also be taken into account as income but you may still get UC.
You work but you’re off sick and your Statutory Sick Pay has ended.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).
You can claim New Style ESA. If you and your partner have less than £16,000 of savings you might also get UC.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You receive pension income from previous employment.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self–employed).
You can claim New Style ESA.
Your pension income may be taken into account.
If you and your partner have less than £16,000 of savings you might also get UC.

Your pension income will be taken into account.

Any New Style ESA you receive will also be taken into account as income but you may still get UC.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You have children.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self-employed).
You can claim New Style ESA as you have paid NI contributions so may qualify.

New Style ESA does not include additional amounts for children.
You can also claim UC, as it is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for children.
You’re ill and unable to work.

You live in rented accommodation, or have a mortgage or home loan, and need help to pay the cost.

You’ve paid and/or been credited with NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years (employed or self-employed).
You can claim New Style ESA as you have paid NI contributions so may qualify.

New Style ESA does not include an additional amount for housing costs.
You can also claim UC, as it is a household assessment and you can receive an amount for your housing costs.

Eligibility

To get New Style ESA you usually need to have been working within the last 2 to 3 years, and have made (or been credited with) Class 1 or Class 2 National Insurance contributions.

This can be through employment or self–employment.

If you’re not sure how much National Insurance you’ve paid, you can check your National Insurance record online.

You will also need to have a fit note (sometimes called ‘sick note’ or ‘doctor’s note’) but you can start making your claim before you have one. If you have only just become ill you can self–certify for the first 7 days.

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)

You can apply for New Style ESA if you’re unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay and one of the following applies to you or your child:

  • you might have COVID-19 or you’re recovering from it
  • you are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have COVID-19
  • you’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
  • you’ve been advised to ‘shield’ (take extra precautions to reduce contact with others) because you’re at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19

Shielding in England, Scotland and Wales has stopped. You can still apply for ESA if you were shielding in England or shielding in Wales before 1 April 2021, or if you were shielding in Scotland before 26 April 2021.

Proof of your eligibility if you’re claiming because of COVID-19

If you’re claiming ESA because of COVID-19, you’ll need to give evidence to support your claim. Once you’ve applied, you’ll be contacted by phone and told when to give the evidence and where to send it.

Proof if you’re self-isolating because of COVID-19

If you or your child are self-isolating and you cannot work because of COVID-19, you can get an ‘isolation note’ online from NHS 111 if you’ve been off work for 7 or more days. You do not have to go to your doctor or a hospital.

If you’ve been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that you’ve come into contact with someone with COVID-19, your notification is proof.

If you’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery, your letter confirming the date of your procedure is proof.

Proof if you were advised to shield because of COVID-19

Your doctor or health authority should have sent you a letter advising you or your child to ‘shield’ because you’re clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

The letter will have included the period to shield for. It is proof of your eligibility for ESA for days away from work in that period.

You may have more than one letter covering more than one shielding period.

Contact your doctor if you do not have a letter but think you should have one.

How to apply

Apply online

You can apply for New Style ESA online.

You’ll need:

  • your National Insurance number
  • your bank or building society account number and sort code (you can use a friend or family member’s account if you do not have one)
  • your doctor’s name, address and telephone number
  • details of your income if you’re working
  • the date your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) ends if you’re claiming it

You must apply by phone if you’re an appointee applying on behalf of someone else.

You cannot get New Style ESA if you’re getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer. You can apply for New Style ESA up to 3 months before your SSP ends.

Apply now

If you cannot apply online

Call the Universal Credit helpline if:

  • you cannot apply online
  • you’re an appointee applying on behalf of someone else

After you apply

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you within 10 working days of applying.

If you’re eligible

DWP will contact you within 10 working days to schedule an appointment that you must attend. It will normally be over the phone with a work coach from your local Jobcentre Plus office.

Your work coach will explain what you need to do to get New Style ESA. They will create an agreement with you called a ‘Claimant Commitment’.

You must agree to your ‘Claimant Commitment’ before you can get New Style ESA.

At the appointment, you’ll be asked to:

If you’re not eligible

DWP will send you a letter within 10 working days of applying to explain why you’re not eligible for ESA.

Work Capability Assessment

A Work Capability Assessment is used to find out if your illness or disability affects how much you can work.

You might not need one, for example if you’re in hospital or you have a terminal illness.

If you need a Work Capability Assessment you’ll get a letter telling you what to do.

You must fill in the ‘Capability for work questionnaire’ and send it to the Health Assessment Advisory Service. The address is on the form. The questionnaire is different in Northern Ireland.

You’ll be told what happens next, for example if you need an appointment to understand your health condition better.

If you’re claiming both Universal Credit and New Style ESA, you’ll only have one Work Capability Assessment.

You can ask for your assessment to be recorded. Tell DWP when you’re arranging your assessment.

How the assessment happens

Assessments are currently taking place over the phone because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you cannot use the phone, you’ll stay on the ‘assessment rate’ until you can be assessed face-to-face or until your New Style ESA ends.

You can have someone else on the call with you, for example a friend or support worker. Ask the assessor to call them if they’re not with you when the assessment starts.

After your claim is assessed

If you’re entitled to ESA you’ll be placed in one of 2 groups:

  • a work-related activity group (you cannot work now, but can prepare to work in the future, for example by writing a CV)
  • a support group (you cannot work now and you’re not expected to prepare for work in the future)

If you’re in the work-related activity group

You must attend regular interviews with a work coach. They can help you improve your skills or write a CV to help you get back into work.

If you’re in the support group

You’re usually in this group if your illness or disability severely limits what you can do. You do not have to go to interviews. You can tell your work coach if you’d like to take part in work-related activities.

How long you’ll get ESA for

New Style ESA lasts for 365 days if you’re in the work-related activity group.

There’s no time limit if you’re in the support group.

To keep getting ESA you must report any change in your circumstances. You may also need to send fit notes regularly.

If you get a sanction

Your ESA can be reduced if you do not attend interviews or do work-related activity as agreed with your work coach in your ‘Claimant Commitment’. This reduction can continue for up to 4 weeks after you restart work-related activities.

You’ll get a letter to say you may be sanctioned. Tell your work coach if you have a good reason for not doing what was agreed in your ‘Claimant Commitment’.

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.

You should contact your local council immediately if you claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction. They’ll tell you what to do to continue getting support.

If you get a sanction you can ask for the decision to be looked at again.

You will not get a sanction if you’re in the support group.

If you’ve been paid too much

If you give wrong or incomplete information or do not report a change straight away, you might be paid too much. If you are, you might have to pay some of the money back.

Published 7 December 2016
Last updated 26 April 2021 + show all updates

  1. Added guidance about needing to attend an interview with a work coach after you have made a claim and attending regular interviews with a work coach if you are in the 'work-related activity group'.

  2. Shielding in England and Wales has stopped. You can still apply for ESA if you were shielding in England or shielding in Wales before 1 April 2021, or if you’re shielding in Scotland.

  3. From 27 January 2021 you can claim New Style ESA if you’re getting Severe Disability Premium (SDP), or if you received SDP in the last month and are still eligible for it.

  4. Replaced guidance that you do not need to go to an appointment with a work coach at the moment with new guidance that DWP will make an appointment to talk to you, either over the phone or face-to-face.

  5. Added information about benefit overpayments.

  6. Added guidance on evidence you'll need to provide if you're claiming New Style Employment and Support Allowance because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  7. Updated guidance to explain that Work Capability Assessments are currently taking place over the phone because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  8. Universal Credit claimants should now apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance online or by phone instead of through their online account.

  9. Updated guidance with link to new service to apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance online and for new eligibility conditions introduced because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  10. Updated with a revised process to apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

  11. Eligibility section amended to include information about Class 2 national contributions.

  12. 'New Style' Employment and Support Allowance claimant guides (print and fold versions) updated.

  13. Added Welsh translations.

  14. 'New style' Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) content updated and printable 'new style' ESA claimant guide added.

  15. Amended wording from 'you must have a Work Capability Assessment' to 'you may be required to attend a Work Capability Assessment'.

  16. Updated the weekly amount you receive if you're in the support group in line with changes to benefit rates for the 2019/2020 financial year.

  17. Updated the guidance on how to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance.

  18. Removed Universal Credit live telephone details as no longer relevant.

  19. Updated guidance to reflect that new claims to Universal Credit can now be made by households with more than 2 children.

  20. Updated Welsh guide with information about how the severe disability premium might affect a claim.

  21. Added information about how the Severe Disability Premium may affect your claim to new style Employment and Support Allowance.

  22. Updated to show that Universal Credit is now available everywhere in Great Britain.

  23. Universal Credit live service telephone helpline opening hours changed to 9am to 4pm.

  24. Added translation

  25. Added translation

  26. Added translation

  27. Added information about if you have more than 2 children.

  28. Updated the weekly amount you receive if you're in the Support group in line with changes to benefit rates for the 2018/2019 financial year.

  29. Explained that claimants will be placed in either the work-related activity group or the support group after their Work Capability Assessment instead of after 13 weeks. The timeframe can vary.

  30. Updated for changes to who can claim new style Employment and Support Allowance from 1 January 2018 if you don't live in a Universal Credit full service area.

  31. Updated guide with new 0800 freephone numbers for Universal Credit.

  32. Corrected the weekly amounts of new style Employment and Support Allowance for people who are still entitled after 13 weeks.

  33. First published.

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