Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) 2020

The Jobseeker’s Allowance is one of the unemployment benefits that you can claim while you try to find work.

This section explains how to apply for the jobseekers allowance online and how much you can get from the new style JSA. Check the eligibility criteria, current rates, and how to avoid having your payment stopped.

Note: The information given in this page is also available in Welsh language via the GOV.UK website, titled ‘Lwfans Ceisio Gwaith (JSA)‘ (Cymraeg).

How Does Jobseekers Allowance Work?

The fortnightly payments from JSA help unemployed individuals, or those who are getting a low income, make ends meet while they are searching for a job.

In most cases, you will need to follow these three steps to get the Jobseeker’s Allowance:

  1. Check whether you meet JSA eligibility criteria and which type you can claim for (see below).
  2. Make a claim for JSA online (or by contacting your local Jobcentre Plus office) and attend an interview.
  3. Sign an agreement to look for work (called a ‘Claimant Commitment’) and keep to the terms stated in it.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) administers the job seekers allowance. JSA payments may stop if you break the terms of your agreement to look for work (unless you can provide a valid reason).

How Much is Jobseekers Allowance?

The table below shows the maximum amount of JSA that you can claim for in 2020 (as stated on the GOV.UK website).

Even so, several factors (e.g. your age, income, and savings) will determine the full extent of your fortnightly entitlement.

AgeJSA (weekly amount)
18 to 24Up to £57.90
25 (or older)Up to £73.10
Couples (both aged 18 or older)Up to £114.85
Note: Using a benefits calculator will help you check how much JSA you can get. It will also show how claiming JSA might affect your rights to benefits.

How Does Job Seekers Allowance Get Paid?

In most cases, JSA payments go out to claimants every two (2) weeks. For security purposes, the DWP pay allowances, benefits, and pensions into a bank, building society, or credit union account.

Am I Eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance?

It is important to be aware that there are three different types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) available in 2020. Your circumstances will determine which types you can get (such as):

  1. ‘New style’ JSA
  2. Contribution-based JSA
  3. Income-based JSA

Nonetheless, to apply for contribution-based and income-based JSA, you must (either):

  • Be getting the severe disability premium (or qualify for it).
  • Have already received (or qualified for) the severe disability premium within the last month and still meet the eligibility criteria for it.

If none of these conditions apply to your situation, you will only be able to apply for the ‘new style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance

You need to have already worked as an employee to meet the eligibility criteria to claim ‘new style’ JSA. Thus, you should also have paid Class 1 National Insurance contributions (within the last two to three years).

Note: You may also qualify for National Insurance credits if you have not been making contributions (e.g. when claiming benefits due to illness or unemployment).

In general, you will not qualify if you were classed as self-employed and only paying Class 2 NI contributions. But, some exceptions apply for people working as share fishermen or as volunteer development workers.

To qualify for the ‘new style’ JSA, you must also be at least 18 years old, available to work, and:

Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) guidance notes.
  • Below the State Pension age.
  • Not in full-time education.
  • Not working at the moment (or working less than 16 hours per week as an average).
  • Live in England, Scotland, or Wales.
  • Not have an illness or disability that stops you from working.
  • Have the legal right to work in the United Kingdom.

Besides that, you must also be able to show that you are ‘actively’ trying to find work – to continue getting JSA payments. Even so, if you have a partner their income and savings will not have any effect on your claim.

The general rules for Jobseeker’s Allowance mean you should get ‘new style’ JSA payments for a period of up to six months (182 days).

Following that, you would need to discuss your situation with your work coach. They will inform you of what other options are available.

Note: It is important to check whether you qualify for Universal Credit. If so, you may get both – or you may get UC instead of the ‘new style’ JSA. You can check your State Pension age on The UK Rules (or GOV.UK) website.

Contribution-based JSA

To apply for contribution-based JSA, you must (either):

  • Be getting the severe disability premium (or qualify for it).
  • Have already received (or qualified for) the severe disability premium within the last month and still meet the eligibility criteria for it.

You need to have already worked as an employee to meet the eligibility criteria to claim ‘new style’ JSA. Thus, you should also have paid Class 1 National Insurance contributions (within the last two to three years).

In general, you will not qualify if you were classed as self-employed and only paying Class 2 NI contributions. But, some exceptions apply for people working as share fishermen or as volunteer development workers.

To qualify for the contribution-based JSA, you must also be at least 18 years old, available to work, and:

  • Below the State Pension age.
  • Not in full-time education.
  • Live in England, Scotland, or Wales.
  • Not working at the moment (or less than 16 hours per week as an average).
  • Not have an illness or disability that stops you from working.
  • Have the legal right to work in the United Kingdom.

The general rules for Jobseeker’s Allowance mean you should get ‘new style’ JSA payments for a period of up to six months (182 days).

Following that, you would need to discuss your situation with your work coach. They will inform you of what other options are available.

Income-based JSA

Any employment carried out within the previous two or three years will not affect your eligibility to claim income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. But, you can only apply if (either):

  • You are getting the severe disability premium (or you qualify for it).
  • You already received (or qualified for) the severe disability premium within the last month (and you still meet the eligibility criteria for it).

To qualify for the income-based JSA, you must also be at least 18 years old (some exceptions apply for 16 and 17-year-olds), available to work, and:

  • Below the State Pension age.
  • Not in full-time education.
  • Be in England, Scotland, or Wales.
  • Not working at the moment (or less than 16 hours per week as an average).
  • Be single (or have a partner who is working less than 24 hours a week as an average).
  • Not have an illness or disability that stops you from working.
  • Have no more than £16,000 in savings (including any savings that your partner has).
Note: Besides that, you must also be able to show that you are ‘actively’ trying to find work.

How to Claim Jobseeker’s Allowance

Most claimants can apply online for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) through the GOV.UK website. But, you can also telephone your local Jobcentre Plus office if you are unable to make an online application.

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Relay UK (NGT text if you are unable to hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 055 6688
Welsh language: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
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After Making a Claim for JSA

Within a few working days, Jobcentre Plus will follow up on your application by sending you a text or a telephone call. The main purpose of contacting you is to arrange your JSA interview.

Note: You cannot apply for the job seekers allowance online if you are getting the severe disability premium. Furthermore, failing to attend your JSA interview means you will not qualify for the payments.

When You Need to Make a Joint Claim

In some cases, you will need to make a joint claim for Jobseekers Allowance, such as when:

  • Your application is for the income-based JSA.
  • You or your partner are not responsible for a child.

You should contact Jobcentre Plus if you need further information about making a joint claim.

How to Challenge a Decision about JSA

What if you disagree with a decision about your claim or reclaim? In this case, you should use a process called ‘mandatory reconsideration‘ to get your case looked at again.

You can make a complaint about the service you get from the Department for Work and Pensions or from an organisation that provides its services (e.g. Jobcentre Plus).

The Jobseeker Allowance Interview

Staff at your local Jobcentre Plus branch will contact you to arrange your JSA interview. You must attend the meeting and you will need to take all the following documents along with you:

  • Your P45 (e.g. if you stopped working for an employer)
  • One (1) ‘primary’ identity document
  • Two (2) ‘secondary’ identity documents (one must prove your date of birth and the other must prove your address)

Primary Identity Documents for JSA

Typical examples of primary documents can be your:

  • Current (and valid) passport
  • Driving licence
  • Biometric residence permit
  • Certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen
  • Permanent residence card

Secondary Identity Documents for JSA

Typical examples of secondary documents used to show proof of your date of birth, can include your:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • NHS medical card

Examples of documents used to show proof of your address can include a recent:

  • Bank statement
  • Council Tax bill
  • Utility bill

It is not uncommon for Jobcentre Plus to request other forms of documentation. The extra information you provide may help them to make a final decision on your claim.

You will be able to take someone along with you to your JSA interview for support. Contact Jobcentre Plus beforehand if you need extra support due to a disability or health condition (e.g. if you need a sign language interpreter).

Signing an Agreement to Look for Work

You will need to sign an agreement about the ‘active’ steps you will take to search for a job. Hence, your work coach will ask you to sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’ during your JSA interview – and agree what goes in it.

In most cases, the type of things that go into a Claimant Commitment will include:

  • What the claimant needs to do to look for work (e.g. writing a CV, registering with recruitment agencies).
  • How many hours the claimant needs to spend trying to find work each week.

Even so, the final details written in the agreement will depend on several factors, such as the claimant’s:

  • Health
  • Need to get work (or increase income)
  • Responsibilities at home
Note: Unless you have valid grounds, the DWP can stop your JSA payments if you fail to carry out the steps noted in your Claimant Commitment.

Claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

Having made a claim for JSA, your work coach will then help you to make plans for finding a job. There are several advantages for doing this, including:

  • It helps you keep a record of what happened while you were searching.
  • It provides proof for your work coach that you were ‘actively’ trying to secure a job.

You will also get extra help with moving from benefits to work from your work coach (e.g. by telling you to take part in one of the employment programmes).

Note: You must inform the Jobcentre Plus office if there is a change in your circumstances (e.g. you start working or your income changes).

Reporting to a Jobcentre Plus Office

As a claimant, you will need to visit a Jobcentre Plus office every two (2) weeks (or when asked to do so). The main purpose of ‘signing on’ every two weeks is to show how you have been looking for work.

So, you will need to show your work coach what steps you have been carrying out. You can do this by providing them with proof of your job applications and face to face interviews.

In most cases, a victim of domestic abuse may take a break from job seeking (for a period of up to thirteen weeks). Your work coach will provide further information if you need this kind of support.

When Can Your JSA Payment Be Stopped?

Your JSA benefit payment will stop for a period of time if you get ‘sanctioned’. As a rule, the DWP can stop your fortnightly payment for up to six (6) months (depending on the sanction level administered).

Sanctioning can occur if you fail to do something that your work coach asks you to do or you do not do something specified in the job search programmes.

Typical examples include:

  • Failing to accept or keep to your agreement to look for work.
  • Not going to a Jobcentre Plus office when asked to do so.
  • Turning down a job or training course.
  • Failing to apply for any jobs you have been told about.
  • Not taking part in any interviews that you are invited to.
  • Failing to attend any training booked for you or not taking part in employment schemes.
  • Leave your last job or training without a valid reason (or because of your poor behaviour).

You should contact Jobcentre Plus without delay if any of these situations apply to you. In some cases, you may still get your payment if you can provide a good reason.

If You Have Your JSA Payment Stopped

It is best to continue looking for work even if your JSA payment is stopped. Otherwise, they can put an end to your benefit payment for a longer period of time.

You should also continue with any JSA claim even if while you dispute their reason for stopping your payment, such as if you:

What if you are claiming Council Tax Reduction or Housing Benefit? In this case, you should contact your local council without delay.

The council authority will provide further information on how to continue getting the support you need.

What if you have your claim for the Jobseeker’s Allowance ended (e.g. because you are unavailable for work)? In this case, you can apply again (straight away).

Even so, they will stop your payments for a period of time up to (either):

  • Four (4) weeks if it is the first time that they ended your claim.
  • Thirteen (13) weeks if they ended a previous claim within the past 12 months.

How to Get Hardship Payments

You may qualify for a hardship payment (e.g. a reduced amount of your normal benefit) if your JSA payments stop. If so, you would not need to pay back the amount you receive (around 60% of your usual payment).

Hardship payments can help you pay for things like food, heating, rent, or other essentials for you or your child. But, you must be at least 18 years old to qualify for a hardship payment.

Furthermore, you would need to show that you tried to find the money from other sources (e.g. working extra hours or borrowing it from family or a friend).

Your local Jobcentre Plus adviser or work coach can explain more about how to claim a hardship payment.

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm

Note: You must contact Jobcentre Plus to end your claim for JSA if you find a job.

Reporting a Change of Circumstances

Jobcentre Plus would need to know if your circumstances change (e.g. you start working) because it usually affects your benefit payments. Failing to tell them may get your claim reduced or stopped altogether.

Likewise, if you start volunteering you should also report it to Jobcentre Plus before you get involved in the activities. Even so, being a volunteer does not usually affect eligibility for JSA payments.

For the purposes of claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), a change of circumstances may include:

  • Starting or stopping work, education, training or an apprenticeship.
  • Moving to another house or home.
  • Changing your name (e.g. by deed poll).
  • Other people moving into or out of the place where you live (e.g. your partner or a child).
  • Changes to:
    • The benefits that you or anyone else in your house is receiving.
    • Your pension, savings, investments, or property.
    • Other money that you get (e.g. grants, student loan, sick pay, or money you get from a charity).
    • Your doctor or their contact details.
    • Your medical condition or disability.
  • Visits to hospital for treatment, a care home, or sheltered accommodation.
  • Going abroad of the United Kingdom for any length of time.
Note: Contact the JSA helpline if you are unsure whether you need to report a change. Giving the wrong or incomplete information, or not report changes straight away, can result in a prosecution or having to pay a £50 penalty.

How to Report a Change in Circumstances

The easiest way to report a change in your circumstances is to call the JSA helpline. You can also write to the Jobcentre Plus office that is paying your JSA (use the address written on letters that you get from them).

JSA and New Style JSA Helpline
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 169 0310
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
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You would need to report changes to both services if you claim Universal Credit as well as the ‘new-style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance.

What if You Get Paid Too Much?

It is not uncommon to be paid too much money (e.g. if you are slow in reporting a change or you give wrong or incomplete information). If this happens, you would usually have to repay benefit overpayments to avoid getting a penalty.