Employment and support allowance (ESA) is a benefit that can be paid if you are sick or disabled and incapable of work. There are two types: contributory employment and support allowance and income-related employment and support allowance.

Contributory ESA is more commonly known as contribution-based ESA - as the name suggests, it is based on the National Insurance contributions that you have paid within a set time period. Under Universal Credit, rather confusingly, contributory ESA is known as ‘new-style’ ESA. Some of law follows the Universal Credit rules, rather than ESA

To be entitled to contributory employment and support allowance, you must have paid enough national insurance contributions in the relevant years.

What if I have savings or other income, will that matter?

It does not matter what other income or savings you have, other than any occupational or personal pension. This may reduce how much contributory ESA you receive, although you will be allowed to "keep" some of your pension before your ESA starts to be deducted.

How long does contributory employment and support allowance last?

Contributory ESA can be paid for up to 365 days as long as you are accepted as being incapable of work and are placed in the work-related activity group after the assessment period, which should be the first 13 weeks of your claim. If you are placed in the support group, there will be no time limit on how long you can receive contributory ESA.

What if I have not paid enough national insurance?

You may be able to claim universal credit if your income and savings are low enough.

Some people are able to receive both contributory and income-related employment and support allowance.

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