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Employment and Support Allowance

Statutory Sick Pay

If you’re too ill to work, you can get £87.55 per week in Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Statutory simply means it is someone’s duty to do something. Here, it is your employer’s duty to pay you for up to 28 weeks. It’s paid in the same way that they pay your wages (e.g. weekly or monthly).

By law, they cannot pay you less than £87.55 per week, but some companies might pay you more than £87.55 per week if they have their own schemes. These are called ‘occupational schemes’.

To claim, you must earn more than £111 a week and have been ill for more than four days in a row (including non-working days). However, you only need a doctor’s note if you’ve missed more than seven days of work.

Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is there for people aged 16 or over, who are unable to work because of sickness or disability and are unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay.

For most new claims, ESA has replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support paid because of an illness or disability. ESA will itself soon be replaced by Universal Credit. Note: you cannot claim both Universal Credit and ESA.

If you are already getting Incapacity Benefit or Income Support because of sickness or disability, you can continue on that benefit for now.

When your Statutory Sick Pay runs out (after 28 weeks), you’ll then be able to claim ESA.

There are two types of ESA:

  • Contributory ESA - which you can get if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions (payments)
  • Income-Related ESA - which is paid if you don’t have enough National Insurance contributions, income or savings

Can I apply?

You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student and you get Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. The amount of work that you are allowed to do whilst claiming ESA is known as ‘permitted work’.

You can't get ESA if you or your partner are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit.

Please Note: You will be treated as a couple if you live with a partner (whether you’re married or in a civil partnership or not), so both incomes will be considered in your income-related ESA claim and you’ll receive the ‘couples rates’.

You will get income-related ESA if your income is less than the amount that the Government thinks is enough for you to live on.

You can read what counts as ‘income’ here.

If your savings are over £16,000, you won’t get income-related ESA, even if your income is below the amount that the Government thinks is needed.

As before, to qualify for contributory ESA, you must have paid enough National Insurance contributions (payments). If you're entitled to contributory ESA, you can still apply for income-related ESA.

How does the claim and assessment work?

You won’t get any money for the first three days of your claim. These are known as your ‘waiting days’.

After this and for the first 13 weeks, you’ll get a basic rate of benefit whilst an independent health professional assesses your ability to do work. This examination is called a ‘work capability assessment’ and this 13-week period is called the ‘assessment phase’.

The rates change every April.

After 13 weeks and your assessment, if you’re still eligible for ESA, you will move onto the ‘main phase’ and get a greater amount. You’ll then be put into one of two groups:

  • Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) – If the Government thinks you could go back to work in the future, you’ll be placed here. They will provide help for you to do this but if you turn it down, you’ll lose some of your benefits
  • Support Group (SG) – If you have a condition that seriously limits what work you can do, you’ll be placed here. You’ll not be expected to look for work nor take part in any compulsory activities like in the WRAG (above)

Please note: if the Government thinks you could look for work right away, you’ll lose ESA and may need to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

What happens to my contributions-based ESA?

The Government will always pay it whilst you’re in the SG but will stop paying it after 365 days if you’re in the WRAG.

If your contributory ESA stops, you may be able to get income-related ESA, depending on your circumstances.

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