What is the work capability assessment (WCA)?

The work capability assessment is the medical assessment used to decide whether you are eligible for employment and support allowance (ESA). It consists of two separate tests.

The first test is to decide whether you are eligible for main phase ESA with a work-related activity component. This is called the limited capability for work assessment.

If you fail this this test you will be found capable of work. You will then have to either challenge this decision by submitting a mandatory reconsideration, or sign on as unemployed. Note, you will not be paid ESA whilst your mandatory reconsideration is being considered. So, in practice unless you have other resources you will have to sign on.

If you pass this first test you will then be subject to a second test, usually as part of the same medical, if you have one.

This second test is called the limited capability for work-related activity assessment. If you pass this test as well you will be placed in the support group. If you fail it, you will still be in the work-related activity group as a result of passing the first test.

Will I have to have a medical as part of the work capability assessment (WCA)?

Most face-to-face assessments have currently been suspended due to coronavirus, though they are being reintroduced from May 2021 for some claimants. You are most likely to have a telephone assessment instead, though some assessments will be on paper only and video assessments are being introduced.

Some people are placed in the work-related activity group or the support group without ever having a medical. Much will depend on the detail with which you fill out the ESA50 limited capability for work questionnaire and the amount and quality of supporting evidence, particularly medical evidence, that you are able to provide at an early stage.

In addition, some people are exempt from the work capability assessment because, for example, they are terminally ill or because they are in the later stages of pregnancy.

Who carries out the work capability assessment (WCA)?

Work capability assessments are carried out by a 'healthcare professional' (HCP) working for a private company called HAAS. The HCP may be a doctor, a nurse or even a midwife. They use a computerised system called LiMA (Logic integrated Medical Assessment) to help them create an ESA85 medical report, largely by clicking on multiple choice options with a mouse.

But the final decision on whether you pass the WCA is taken by a decision maker, who is not supposed to just rubber-stamp the HCP’s report. Instead, they should take account of all the evidence available, of which the ESA85 is just one piece.

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