Employment Support Allowance

You may be eligible to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have difficulty working because you are either sick or disabled. This is referred to as having ‘limited capability for work’.

Although you cannot usually get ESA at the same time as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Income Support, you can get ESA at the same time as other benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Most new claimants will get what is now called ‘new style’ ESA. You cannot however, claim new style ESA if you are getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP). If you have been getting an SDP, you can apply for the old types of ESA instead. 

To get ‘new style’ ESA you need to have:

  • worked as an employee or been self-employed.



Check your National Insurance record for any gaps in the payment of contributions or credits.

Check whether you can claim new style ESA

If you’ve been getting a benefit with an SDP, you can only claim the ‘old’ types of ESA which are:

  1. ‘Income-related’ ESA. This is if you have no income or you have a low income. Incomerelated ESA is means tested, so your needs, and those of your partner if you have one, are compared to your income and savings when working out how much money you’re entitled to. Contributory ESA and the new style ESA are not means tested benefits. You will not be able to get income-related ESA if you have savings or investments worth over £16,000.

  2. Contribution-based’ ESA: This is if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions. You must have met National Insurance conditions for two tax years, for example in 2020 the tax years would be years 2017-18 and 2018-19. To meet the National Insurance conditions, you will need to have a full year of contributions for both tax years. You must have either:

  • both full years from employment or self-employment.


  • one full year from employment or self-employment and the other full year from National Insurance credits.

You only have to apply once for the old types of ESA. When you apply, the DWP will check which type you can get. If you are eligible for the old types of ESA, you will usually have to apply over the phone.

For further information as to what you may get please click here.