Coronavirus: information and updates

Working and your benefits

How much you earn and how many hours you work can affect your benefits.

Warning Stopping work because of coronavirus

You may qualify for these benefits:

  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from the first day of self-isolation
  • Universal Credit and an Emergency Universal Credit loan so that you can get your first payment straight away
  • New Style Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) if you lose your job, even if your partner is still working or if you’re claiming Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credits (WTC) for up to 28 weeks if someone is getting Statutory Sick Pay or ESA while sick, with another 4 weeks of WTC if your work finishes

Benefits and coronavirus

Employment rights

If you have to self-isolate because of government advice, your employer should make reasonable adjustments for you to work instead of taking sick leave. You rights might include:

Employee rights and coronavirus

Benefits covering extra costs of living

Some benefits cover some of the extra costs of living if you’re sick or disabled. They are not affected by your income. These include:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If your work suggests your needs have changed, you could be re-assessed for these benefits.

ESA and permitted work

You can earn up to £140 a week if:

  • you’re claiming ESA
  • you’re working for less than 16 hours a week
  • your work coach agrees that it’s permitted work

Employment and Support Allowance 

If you go over these permitted work limits, your ESA claim will stop. You may be able to claim other benefits.

Use the Turn2us benefits calculator to find out what you can claim.

Universal Credit (UC)

If you are claiming Working Tax Credit, you will usually be better off. You cannot re-claim ESA once you’re claiming Universal Credit. A change in your income or even a one-off payment can trigger a move onto Universal Credit, so you might be worse off.

Universal Credit is affected by how much you earn. It’s not affected by the number of hours that you work. For every £1 you earn above your work allowance (if you qualify), your Universal Credit payment will reduce by 63p. If you make a new claim for Universal Credit, you will not get your first payment for at least 5 weeks.

Universal Credit works in a different way if you’re self-employed.

Universal Credit

Self-employment and Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

Advance payments

If you cannot wait 5 weeks, you can apply for an advance payment by:

  • asking your work coach

  • applying through your online account

  • calling the Universal Credit helpline

You will have to pay back your advance payment.

Get an advance payment of Universal Credit (Citizens Advice)

Housing Benefit (HB)

If your income changes, ask to see a housing adviser at your local council. Tell them that you have had a change of circumstances. They will need to see your pay slips.

If you do not tell your council that your income changes, this could mean that you get the wrong amount of Housing Benefit:

If you are overpaid Housing Benefit, you must repay this to the council.

If you are underpaid Housing Benefit, this could mean you do not have enough to cover your rent.

Housing Benefit 

Carer's Allowance (CA)

You can earn less than £128 a week and claim Carer's Allowance if you are caring for someone for 35 hours a week or more.

Carer’s Allowance Eligibility criteria (GOV.UK)

When you start a new job

Tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if you start a new job or if your work changes.

Contact the DWP (GOV.UK) 

If you’re claiming Housing Benefit, contact your local council.

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

Working 16 hours or more a week

If you are claiming ESA, working for more than 16 hours a week can leave you worse off depending on how much you earn.

Working for 16 hours or more a week may also mean that you’re not eligible for Income Support.

Use the Turn2us benefits calculator to find out what you can claim.

Income Support and working 16 hours a week or more (entitledto)

Warning Accepting a job when you claim ESA

If you work 16 hours or more you will move onto Universal Credit and will not be able to claim ESA again. Consider carefully if it is worth working 16 hours or more.

If you get a pay rise

If you get a pay rise, your means-tested benefits may change or end because they are related to your earnings.

Calculate how earning more might affect your benefits (entitledto)

Pay rises and your benefits

If you’re self-employed

Some benefits, such as Universal Credit, work differently if you’re self-employed. When you become self-employed, even if you are not earning, you must tell the DWP.

Self-employment and benefits 

Getting help managing your tax and benefits when you’re self-employed

Last reviewed by Scope on: 24/09/2020

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