Talking over tea

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who are unable to work due to illness or disability.

There are two types of ESA - you may be entitled to one or both of them:

  • Contribution-based ESA - you can get this if you've paid enough National Insurance contributions. It's taxable.
  • Income-related ESA - you can get this if you have no income or a low income.You don't have to have paid National Insurance contributions and it isn't taxable.

Can I claim it?

To claim either type of ESA you need to be under State Pension age and have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work.

You can't claim either type of ESA if you’re claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Statutory Sick Pay. You can't claim income-related ESA if you claim Universal Credit or if you have savings of more than £16,000.

You'll have to attend a medical assessment called a 'work capability assessment'. You'll also have to fill in a 'limited capacity for work' questionnaire that looks at how your illness or disability affects what you do. After this you’ll be told whether you’re considered fit for work, or whether you’re entitled to ESA.

If you are entitled to ESA, you’ll be placed in the ‘work-related activity group’ or the ‘support group’. People in the support group are exempt from the benefit cap. People in the work-related activity group get less money and are expected to prepare for an eventual return to the job market. If you don't, your benefit can be reduced for a period. If you're entitled to income-related ESA, you may also qualify for other benefits such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction and help with health costs.

How much will I get?

Income-related ESA - the amount of you get depends on your income and savings, whether you're single or a couple, whether you get disability or carer's benefits, and the result of your assessment. Income-related ESA can be paid on its own or as a top-up to contribution-based ESA.

Contribution-based ESA - you'll get a basic allowance of £72.40 for the first 13 weeks. After your assessment, you'll get:

  • up to £101.15 a week if you're in the work-related activity group
  • up to £108.15 a week if you're in the support group

If you're in the work-related activity group, you'll get contribution-based ESA for one year; if you're in the support group, there's no time limit.

Contribution-based ESA may be reduced if you have a private pension or you're claiming certain benefits.

How do I claim?

Call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888). They’ll ask you questions over the phone and fill in the form for you.

Or visit the GOV.UK website to download a claim form.

We are grateful for the generous support of Dr Naim Dangoor CBE
and The Exilarch's Foundation

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Information sheets and factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 6565