What is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people of working-age who are not working and have a limited-capability for work because of a disability or illness. It is made up of two elements, one means-tested and another non means-tested.

If you claim ESA, you will be placed into one of two groups - a work-related activity group or a support group - depending on your assessment.

There are 3 types of ESA:

  • ‘new style’ ESA if you’re entitled to claim Universal Credit
  • contributory ESA - usually you get this if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions (National Insurance credits can count for part of this, if you get them)
  • income-related ESA - usually you get this on its own or on top of contributory ESA, if you’re on a low income.

If you are in a work related activity group, the maximum amount of time that you can receive contributory or new style ESA is limited to 365 days. If you are in the support group, there is no time limit.

Further information about ESA, the different rates, and how to apply can be found in our ESA factsheet:

For more information and advice about ESA, what benefits you may be entitled to and how to claim them contact our Helpline:


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