Financial help when you’re not able to work
Last updated: 06/04/2023
If you have an illness that limits your ability to work you may be able to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit or Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer.
New style Employment and Support Allowance
If you have to give up work because of illness or a disability you may be able to get new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). To get new style ESA you must have paid enough national insurance contributions during the last 2 to 3 years when you were working. ESA is usually paid for one year.
How to apply
There are two ways to apply for new style ESA:
- You can claim online
- If you are unable to claim online you can call the Universal Credit Helpline: 0800 328 5644 or textphone: 0800 328 1344
You also need to give Jobcentre Plus a medical certificate from your doctor and complete a medical assessment.
How much will I get?
During the 13-week assessment you will be paid an assessment rate. After the assessment you will be placed in the ‘work’ or ‘support’ group depending on the result of the assessment. You will receive a higher rate if you are placed in the support group.
As well as getting new style ESA for yourself you may also get Universal Credit for your children and to help with rent. How much you get depends on your circumstances and any other money you have to live on.
Employment and Support Allowance weekly amounts:
- £67.20 if you are under 25
- £84.80 if you are 25 or over
After the assessment phase:
- £84.80 for everyone in the work group
- £129.50 for everyone in the support group
If you cannot get new style Employment and Support Allowance, because you have not made the necessary national insurance contributions, you can claim Universal Credit instead. You can also get Universal Credit for your children and to help pay rent. The amount you get is based on your income rather than your national insurance contributions.
How to apply
You need to claim Universal Credit on-line. If you are unable to do this, you can call the Universal Credit Helpline for where to get help.
If you are already getting Universal Credit when you become ill or disabled, make an appointment to talk to your work coach about this. You may not get any more Universal Credit but might not have to look for work or take a job depending on how your condition affects you.
You will also have to give your work coach a medical certificate from your doctor and complete a medical assessment.
How much will I get?
During the 13 week assessment phase you will be paid the standard allowance of Universal Credit. After the assessment phase you will continue to get this standard amount but may also receive an additional amount if you are put in the support group. As well as getting Universal Credit for yourself you may also get it for your children and to help with rent.
Universal Credit monthly amounts:
Standard allowance for people under 25: £292.11
Standard allowance for people 25 and over: £368.74
Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity (in addition to the standard allowance): £390.06
The medical assessment
After you have made the initial claim for Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit you will be sent, or asked to download, an ESA50 or UC50 form. It asks questions about your medical condition, or disability, and how it affects your ability to work and perform specific everyday tasks. You will be awarded points based on your answers to the questions.
Completion of the ESA50 and UC50 can be complicated. Consider getting expert help from someone with experience in this area such as a welfare rights worker.
After you have completed and returned your ESA50 or UC50 form you will receive an appointment to take part in a medical assessment by phone, video, at a local centre or in your own home. A medical professional will ask about the effect of your condition on your ability to work. You can have someone with you at this assessment.
The results of your completed ESA50 or UC50 and the medical assessment will be used to decide if you are able to work or not. If it is decided that your illness or disability affects your ability to work, you will be told you are in one of two groups.
The two groups are called:
- the work-related activity group, usually called the work group
- the limited capability for work and work-related activity group, usually called the support group.
The work group
If you are placed in the work group because you have been found to have limited capability for work, you do not have to apply for or take a job. If your youngest child is aged 1 year or over, you are expected to prepare for returning to work in the future. You will be called into the jobcentre at regular intervals to discuss what steps you have taken to make yourself ready for work.
The support group / limited capability for work and work-related activity
If you are found to have limited capability for work and work-related activity you are not expected to take, or prepare for, a job but may occasionally be called into the jobcentre for an interview which you need to attend or your benefit will stop.
Should you claim new style ESA or Universal Credit?
If you are unsure about your national insurance contributions you can apply for new style ESA and Universal Credit at the same time. A decision is likely to be made about new style ESA before Universal Credit.
If you are awarded ESA enter the change of circumstances on your universal credit online account. You may still be entitled to some Universal Credit for your children or to help with rent.
If you do not get new style ESA you do not have to do anything as your Universal Credit claim will continue.
What happens if you are told your medical condition does not affect your ability to work?
If you are told you have been found ‘fit for work’ you will not get new style ESA but may get Universal Credit depending on your income.
If you were getting new style ESA during the assessment and found fit for work, it will stop. You do not have to pay back what you got and can claim new style Jobseekers’ Allowance instead. You will receive the same amount of money but will need to look for work and accept job offers depending on the age of your children.
If you were getting Universal Credit you will continue to get it if you are found fit for work but will have to look for work and accept job offers depending on the age of your children.
What to do if you disagree with your ESA or Universal Credit decision
It is always worth challenging a decision you are unhappy with. You can do this by asking that your application be looked at again (this is called a mandatory reconsideration) and can then go on to appeal if you still do not agree with the decision. A welfare rights officer from your local council of Citizen’s Advice Bureau can help you with this.
Statutory Sick Pay from your employer
You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer if you are earning at least £123 per week. You have to give your employer ‘fit notes’ from your doctor for the periods you are ill after the first 7 days of illness.
How to apply
Talk to your employer. SSP is paid by your employer in the same way as your wages.
How much will I get?
SSP is £109.40 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. Your employer may pay you more than this statutory amount depending on your contract.
You can claim SSP at the same time as tax credits, Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
If you are unable to return to work after this time you may be able to get new style Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit.
Health benefits for you
If you are on a limited income you could get help to pay for glasses, dental treatment and travel costs to and from hospital. Prescriptions are free in Scotland.