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COVID-19: A guide to 'new style' Employment Support Allowance

What is the ‘new style’ Employment Support Allowance?

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced to provide financial support if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work. It provides you with money to help with living costs if you’re unable to work, along with support to get back into work if you’re able to.

Given the unprecedented time we find ourselves in, Government have introduced a ‘new style’ ESA which is available to individuals who are unable to work because they are self-isolating due to COVID-19.

You can claim the ‘new style’ ESA on its own or alongside Universal Credit.


Who is eligible?

If you are unable to claim SSP and one of the following applies then you can apply for ‘new style’ ESA if you’ve been affected by COVID-19.

  • You or your child think you have coronavirus or you’re recovering from it
  • You or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have coronavirus
  • You have been told to stay at home for at least 12 weeks by the NHS because you’re at high risk of severe illness

However this is a contributory benefit which means you would normally be entitled to it if you have paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the previous 2 full tax years. More information on your eligibility can be found here.


How much can you claim?

What you can claim for varies on your circumstances however unlike Universal Credit, your income or savings will not affect your eligibility or amount you can claim but a private pension might affect the amount you receive.

Due to the application process taking around 13 weeks, while your claim is being processed you will be put on an assessment rate. This will be:

  • up to £58.90 a week if you’re aged under 25
  • up to £74.35 a week if you’re aged 25 or over

When you’re application has been processed, if you are eligible you will receive either:

  • up to £74.35 a week if you’re in the work-related activity group
  • up to £113.55 a week if you’re in the support group


Can you work while you claim?

Yes, you can still work while you claim ESA, but there are some limitations. Usually you cannot work more than 16 hours a week or earn more than £140 per week.

There are certain circumstances in which you can work more than 16 hours per week and claim, such as voluntary work or ‘supported permitted work’. You can find out more about ‘supported permitted work here’.


How can you claim?

If you claim Universal Credit you can apply online, by signing into your Universal Credit account. If you’re not already receiving Universal Credit you need to phone 0800 382 5644 (option 2).

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