If you're of working age but unemployed and actively seeking work, you may be able to get Jobseeker's Allowance.
Who is eligible?
If you're out of work or working less than 16 hours a week on average, you may be able to get Jobseeker's Allowance.
You must also be:
- Capable of working at least 40 hours per week
- Available for work
- Actively seeking work
- Living in Great Britain
- Between 18 and state pension age (currently 65 for men and rising in stages for women from 60 to 65 over a period of 10 years)
Who isn't eligible?
You can't usually get Jobseeker's Allowance if you're:
- Under 18
- A full-time student
There are exceptions – particularly if you look after children – so it's worth checking with your local Jobcentre Plus to see if you're eligible.
How does it work?
There are 2 types of Jobseeker's Allowance, 'contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance' and 'income-based Jobseeker's Allowance'.
Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance
You may get this if you've paid, or are treated as having paid, enough National Insurance contributions (NICs) over the last 2 tax years. Jobcentre Plus can pay this for up to 182 days. Generally, self-employed contributions will not help you qualify for contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
You may get this if you haven't paid enough NICs (or you've only paid contributions for self-employment) and you're on a low income.
Jobseeker's Allowance payments
Jobseeker's Allowance is paid at the end of every fortnight. It's paid straight into your bank or building society account.
If you're over 60
If you're a man aged 60 to 64, you may apply for Pension Credit as well as Jobseeker's Allowance.
If you're a woman and have reached the State Pension age, you may prefer to apply for Pension Credit instead of receiving your state pension. By 'deferring' your state pension you will be entitled to receive more money when you do claim it.
JSA for 16 and 17 year olds
If you're an unemployed 16 or 17 year old you may be able to get income-based JSA for a short period if for example any of the following circumstances apply to you:
- You're forced to live away from your parents
- You'll suffer severe hardship if you don't get Job Seeker's Allowance
- You're part of a couple responsible for a child
Contact your local Jobcentre Plus or benefits office for more information about your circumstances.
You can also find out if you're eligible for Young Person's Bridging Allowance (YPBA).
How much do you get?
Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance for England, Wales and Scotland
You get a flat weekly rate according to your age (as at January 2011):
18 - 24
25 or over
Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance for Northern Ireland
16 - 24
25 or over
Your payments might be reduced if you're getting a pension of more than £50 a week, or delayed if you're getting final payments from your last job.
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
The maximum weekly rates are:
Single people aged 18 (16 in Northern Ireland) - 24
Single people aged 25 or over
Couples and civil partnerships (both aged 18 or over)
Lone parents (aged under 18)
Lone parents (aged 18 or over)
Your payments might be reduced if you receive income from part-time employment. You'll get less if you have savings over £6,000. If you have savings over £16,000 you probably won't qualify.
Your payments might also be reduced if you're getting an occupational or personal pension. For contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobcentre Plus do not take into account the first £50 of your pension.
If your partner or civil partner works 24 hours or more a week on average, you can't usually get income-based JSA (contribution-based JSA isn't affected). If they work less than 24 hours, it may affect how much you get.
How to claim
In some areas you can claim by telephone and be sent a statement recording the details you've given and an appointment to attend an interview.
In other areas you'll be given a claim form to fill in and take to the Jobcentre Plus office when you attend a New Jobseeker Interview.
You can get a claim form at your local Jobcentre Plus office. Seefor more information.
What happens next?
Attending the Jobcentre
When you claim Jobseeker's Allowance, you'll need to attend an interview at the Jobcentre. This is called a 'new jobseeker interview'. You'll be asked to bring the claim form to the interview. An adviser will explain how Jobseeker's Allowance works and draw up a 'Jobseeker's Agreement' with you, showing:
- Your availability for work
- The kind of work you want and how you'll look for it
- How you might improve your chances of finding a job
- Help and support you'll get
You'll need to confirm your claim in person every 2 weeks, and your situation will be reviewed at regular interviews.
What to do if your circumstances change
You must tell your local Jobcentre Plus as soon as possible about any changes in your circumstances like:
- Finding work – paid or voluntary
- Going into hospital
- Going abroad to look for work
- You gain capital (including savings and investments), for example, property is left to you
In many cases you'll still be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance, but if you don't report a change in circumstance, you could lose your benefit.
How to appeal
If you're unhappy about the content of the 'Jobseeker's Agreement', you can ask the office that dealt with your claim to look again at their decision. If you're still unhappy with the outcome, you can appeal.
You can ask for an explanation or reconsideration of every decision, but some benefit decisions cannot be appealed. For example, you can't appeal against decisions on Budgeting Loans, Community Care Grants or Crisis Loans. The decision letter will make it clear if it can't be appealed.
You have one month:
- After getting a decision to ask for it to be explained, reconsidered or to appeal
- After getting a reconsidered decision to start an appeal
A late appeal may be accepted if you have special circumstances that prevented you appealing in time, but not if more than 13 months have passed.
Information on how to appeal is normally included in the decision letter.
If you don't qualify for Jobseeker's Allowance under the normal rules, you may still get reduced payments under 'hardship provision'.
You'll have to prove that someone in your family will suffer if you don't get Jobseeker's Allowance. It may be a few weeks before payments begin, unless you're in a vulnerable group.
Your local Jobcentre Plus office or Jobcentre in Northern Ireland can tell you more about hardship provision.
The mandatory work activity scheme
The purpose of this scheme is to assist those in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance in improving their prospects of obtaining employment.
Regulations give Jobcentre Plus personal advisers the discretion to require an individual receiving Jobseeker's Allowance to participate in the scheme, upon giving them written notice. The scheme requires recipients of Jobseeker's Allowance to participate in work or a work-related activity for up to 30 hours a week over 4 consecutive weeks.
If it is found that the recipient failed to participate in the Scheme without showing good cause, then they could be punished by not being paid Jobseeker's Allowance (or in the case of joint-claim Job Seeker's Allowance, having payment reduced or denied) for 13 weeks. A further sanction of 26 weeks may be applied if the recipient is found to have failed to participate without showing good cause on 2 occasions within a 12-month period.
Penalties for failing to attend interviews
Suspension of payments
The benefit will not be paid for at least one week and up to a maximum of 2 weeks if you:
- Fail to attend an interview on a specified date and contact Jobcentre Plus within 5 working days of the interview to inform them why you did not attend, but do not have a good reason
- Attend for an interview on the specified date, but not the correct time, (having arrived late at a previous interview and been warned in writing of the consequences of failing to do so again) and you contact Jobcentre Plus within 5 working days of the interview to inform them why you did not attend on time, but do not have a good reason
However, your entitlement to the benefit will remain unaffected.
Losing the right to the benefit
Your entitlement to the benefit will end if you:
- Fail to attend an interview on a specified date and fail to contact Jobcentre Plus within 5 working days of the interview to inform them why you did not attend
- Attend for an interview on the specified date but not the correct time (having arrived late at a previous interview and been warned in writing of the consequences of failing to do so again) and you fail to contact Jobcentre Plus within 5 working days of the interview to inform them why you did not attend on time
- Fail to provide a signed declaration (see below), as required by Jobcentre Plus, and you fail to contact Jobcentre Plus within 5 working days of the date that you were supposed to provide the declaration and do not provide a good reason for not doing so
Providing declarations to Jobcentre Plus
You must, if requested to do so, provide a signed declaration stating that since you have been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance or since you last provided a similar declaration:
- You continue to be available for employment or satisfied the circumstances to be treated as being available for employment, except as you may have otherwise notified Jobcentre Plus
- You have either been actively seeking employment to the extent necessary to give you the best prospects of securing employment or you have satisfied the circumstances to be treated as actively seeking employment, except as you may have otherwise notified Jobcentre Plus
- There has been no change to your circumstances which might affect your entitlement to a Jobseeker's Allowance or the amount payable, except as you may have otherwise notified Jobcentre Plus