Are you entitled to Employment & Support Allowance?

workplace benefits

Employment and Support Allowance or ESA is one of the benefits that the government offer to help you when you can’t work due to ill health or a disability.

One of the big questions is always if you are entitled to ESA and how you go about claiming.  Here’s a look at the process.

ESA basics

If you have an illness, health condition or disability that means you find it either difficult or impossible to work, then you may be able to get financial help from the government in the form of ESA.  This is a payment that you receive every fortnight to help with living costs.

It is worth mentioning that Universal Credit is a new benefit that is slowly replacing ESA and a number of other benefits at the moment.  It is being rolled out to certain parts of the country so if you apply for ESA in these areas, you could find yourself applying for Universal Credit instead.  It is designed to replace the income-related ESA, but the contribution based ESA will remain the same.

Types of ESA

ESA is divided into two types – contribution based, and income related.  You can be eligible for both or either depending on your situation.

Contribution based:

  • If you have a health condition that means you cannot work
  • You don’t receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer (although you can start applying up to three months before SSP ends and ESA can star from that date)
  • You aren’t over State Pension age
  • You are a UK resident
  • You have paid at least 26 weeks Class 1 or 2 national insurance contributions for at least one of the last two tax years and have paid at least 50 weeks in the last 2 tax years

You can’t receive contribution based ESA alongside Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance in either of its forms.  So to switch to ESA, you need to stop claiming these. If your partner receives one of these, you can still be considered for ESA.


  • You are under State Pension age but old enough to get Pension Credit
  • You don’t work, are stopping work or will be doing ‘permitted work’ under the ESA
  • You are a UK resident
  • You have savings that are less than £16,000
  • You have a partner working less than 24 hours a week

You or your partner can’t claim for both income-related ESA and Income Support, JSA or Pension Credit.  So if you want to claim income-related ESA, you will need to stop these benefits.

How to make a claim for ESA

The process for claiming ESA isn’t a quick one – the assessment period can be 13 weeks at a minimum and might be longer.  However, when you apply you will get some money straight away from DWP while they assess you as long as DWP thinks you are going to be eligible for some type of the benefit.  Paperwork from your GP such as a sicknote will help with this. And if they do decide that you aren’t eligible later, you don’t have to pay back this money.

You can also continue to claim some benefits alongside ESA even in the assessment phase.  Personal Independence Payment or PIP is one example. You can receive this regardless of what happens with your ESA claim although you can use the PIP contact number if you want to double check this.

The process of applying for ESA is a three-stage process.  To start with, you complete the ESA1 form then you may have the complete ESA50 depending on your health and abilities.  There is also a medical assessment with a GP or health professional.  After this, you will go through the assessment phase and find out if you are eligible for the benefit.