Job Seekers Allowance

Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is a benefit paid those who are able to work but are either not working at all or are not in full time employment (defined as less than 16 hours per week). There are two types of JSA, income-based and contribution-based.

Which type of Job Seekers Allowance can I apply for?

Contribution-based JSA

If your local JobCentre Plus calculate that you have made enough class one National Insurance contributions over the last two tax years then you will be entitled to claim contribution-based JSA. If you have been earning NI credits these will also count towards your overall contribution. You can claim contribution-based JSA even if your partner is employed or you have savings in the bank.

“New style” JSA

Certain individuals can apply for “new style” JSA, these include…

  • Single person’s living anywhere in Great Britain
  • Families or couples who live in an area where Universal Credit (UC) has been rolled out

This benefit works in a similar method to contributions-based JSA in that your partner’s savings and/or income are not considered when you make a claim. New style JSA can be claimed by itself but can also be paid along with UC. If your circumstances mean you fall into the latter category, your JSA payment will be deducted from your overall UC payment.

Income-based JSA

Unlike contribution-based JSA, Income-based JSA is calculated using your income and savings. Those individuals who fall into the following categories will get income-based JSA…

  • Work on average fewer than 16 hours per week
  • Your partner works less than 24 hours per week
  • You have less than £16,000 in savings

It should be noted you cannot get income-based JSA and UC at the same time.

Basic Eligibility Criteria

You have the option to apply for either a single or joint JSA application. Below are the two different criteria for each…

Single application

  • You are working fewer than 16 hour per week
  • You are looking for employment
  • You live in Great Britain
  • You are under state pension age
  • You are not enrolled in full-time education
  • You are fit and able to take up work

Joint application

  • One of you is aged over 18
  • You are both not responsible for any children
  • You are both aged over state pension age

If you have a partner

If you intend to make a claim and have a partner you should be aware that your partner must work fewer than 24 hours a week. Furthermore, if you jointly have over £16,000 in savings you will not be eligible to claim.

If you are self-employed

It is generally harder for self-employed people to claim contribution based JSA as they pay a different type of National Insurance (dependent on their annual income). However self-employed people can also make a claim for income-based JSA plus other benefits such as ESA and working tax credits.

If you are between 16 and 17

You may be able to get JSA if you are 16 or 17. Your local JobCentre Plus must approve the claim. Typically you will have to be living away from your parents, be a couple with children or been recently released from custody. If you think you are eligible, check out the guidance given to JobCentre Plus staff which should give you a better idea if you can claim.

If you are in full time education

Those in full time education will not be able to claim JSA. However, those who are enrolled on part-time courses may be eligible to claim depending on their individual circumstances.

How to apply

Before you start to make a claim for JSA, you need to check you are not living in an area where Universal Credit (UC) has been rolled out. This can be done using the benefits calculator.

Ways to claim

The fastest way to make a new claim for JSA is to call JobCentrePlus on 0800 055 6688. Lines are open Mon to Fri (8am to 6pm)

Those who are eligible for new style JSA under the UC system must apply by phone. If you are classed as living in a “live service” UC area you should call 0345 600 0723 or alternatively if you are in a “full service” UC area you should call 0800 055 6688.

If you are not sure what type of UC area you are living in, the website has a list of JobCentres where you can claim UC.

The interview Process

Once you have submitted a new claim for JSA, your local JobCentre Plus will contact you to arrange an interview at your local branch. It is a mandatory part of the application process that you attend this interview, as failing to do so will mean you cannot start to receive JSA payments, even if you qualify.

At the initial interview, you will meet with a personal adviser who will run over your application and help you to improve your chances of finding a job. These steps will then be documented in your Job Seeker Agreement contract which you must sign in order to start receiving payments. After this initial interview, you must attend regular review interviews every fortnight in order for your JSA payments to continue. When attending a review interview, you must be able to demonstrate that you have been actively seeking work and that you are still available to take up employment opportunities.

Rapid Reclaim

If you have claimed JSA within the last 26 weeks your new application process should be much quicker compared to new claimants. However, you will still need to attend another interview at your local JobCentre Plus. If you are reclaiming new style JSA you should either call the service centre (if you are in a “live service” area) or instead, make a claim online (if you are in a full service area)

How much will I get?

Contributions based JSA

Below are the maximum amounts you can claim. However, the exact amount you are awarded will be based on your individual circumstances. You will need to have made enough employee based NI contributions in the last two tax years in order to qualify. Those who are working part-time and/or have an occupational pension may get less. You are also only eligible to claim contributions-based JSA for upto six months after which you may be entitled to claim income-based JSA.

AgeWeekly payment
16 - 24£57.90
25 or over£73.10

Income based JSA

If you have not paid enough NI credits or you have a low income (or no income at all) you should claim Income based JSA. The amount you will get is worked out by the government who calculate a figure based on what they think you need to live on. They will take into account your personal circumstances and will typically look at the following criteria…

  • If you are living with someone or not
  • If you look after someone who has a disability (or you are disabled yourself)
  • If you have over £6,000 in the bank
  • If you have a mortgage
  • If you have other income streams

Below is a rate table showing the maximum amount you can claim.

StatusAge BracketWeekly payment
SingleUnder 25£57.35
Single25 or older£72.40
CouplesBoth 18 or over£113.70
Lone Parent18 or older£72.40
Lone ParentUnder 18£57.35

The benefits calculator is a useful starting point to assess how much you might be entitled to.

Impact on other benefits

It should be noted that claiming JSA (including contributions based JSA) will count as income and could impact you entitlement to other welfare benefits or tax credits. The only exceptional to this is if you are getting your benefits topped up by income based JSA, Universal Credit or Pension Credit in which instance your contributions based JSA is ignored for housing benefit purposes.

Extra Financial Support (Premiums)

Premiums are available to those who require extra financial support…

  • Carer premium
  • Disability premium
  • Enhanced disability premium
  • Pensioner premium
  • Severe disability premium

Premiums should be paid automatically when you apply but if you are not receiving the extra money you should speak to your local JobCentre Plus.

Disregarded earnings and benefits

A small part of your earnings are “disregarded” when it comes to calculating income-based JSA. The deductions are as follows…

Single Person – £5.00 per week
Living with a partner – £10.00 per week

Lone parents OR those claiming the disability premium OR those claiming carers premium will have £20.00 disregarded.

Certain benefits are excluded from JSA calculations including child benefit, attendance allowance, disability living allowance, personal independence payment and armed forces independence payment.

What are sanctions?

With regard to JSA, a sanction would mean you have failed to fulfil the basic eligibility criteria, which is that are you are available and actively looking for employment. If it is adjudged you are not meeting this requirement then your local JobCentre Plus has the ability to sanction your payments, which would mean you would receive 40% less than your normal amount.

How to make an appeal

Appeals should be made to to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal, see our full section on making an appeal.