Permitted work is work you may do, including voluntary work, while claiming health- or disability-related benefits such as Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Attendance Allowance (AA) are not means-tested, so your earnings do not affect the amount of your benefit.

Permitted work lower limit

This allows you to earn up to £20 a week for an unlimited period. This is useful if you are on Income Support because any earnings over £20 will be deducted from your benefit.

Permitted work higher limit

This allows you to earn up to £120 a week, after tax and National Insurance deductions, without affecting your benefit, if you are getting ESA or Universal Credit disability elements or National Insurance credits because of incapacity for work. The work must be for less than 16 hours a week. It can be for an unlimited period.

Supported permitted work

Supported permitted work has no restriction on the hours you work and can be for an unlimited period. You can earn up to £120 a week after tax and National Insurance deductions, without affecting your benefit, if you are getting ESA or Universal Credit disability elements, or National Insurance credits because of incapacity for work.

Permitted work and Universal Credit

There is no ‘permitted work’ under Universal Credit. Instead you will be encouraged to do some work, even if only for a few hours a week, if you can manage it. There is no time limit to how many weeks you can work. It may be possible for some of your earnings to be disregarded when your Universal Credit is calculated.

Permitted work and Housing Benefit

If you are getting ESA or Universal Credit disability elements, any earnings from permitted work are disregarded in the housing benefit calculation. If you are getting Income Support, up to £20 of permitted work earnings may be disregarded.

Permitted work can include paid employment or self-employment.

You can get more information about income tax for self-employed people from the HMRC website or by calling the HMRC Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504

Other allowed work

The following kinds of work are also allowed:
  • care of a relative or domestic tasks carried out in your own home
  • work as a councillor. If you receive a councillor’s allowance that pays more than £120 a week, excluding expenses, the excess will be deducted.
  • any activity in an emergency to protect another person or to prevent serious damage to property or livestock
  • duties undertaken as an appeal tribunal disability member – one day a week is allowed (or two half days)
  • self-employed work done whilst you are 'test trading' for up to 26 weeks with help from a self-employment provider arranged by the DWP
  • (for ESA only) fostering a child or providing respite care to someone who is not normally a member of your household, if you receive payment from a health body, voluntary organisation or local authority (or from the person placed with you by the local authority)
  • a DWP-approved unpaid work trial or work placement
  • work which is so minimal that it can be regarded as trivial or negligible. 
You do not need the permission of a doctor to do permitted work, but you must tell the DWP; call 0345 608 8545.

You can also download this Permitted Work form and send to the Jobcentre Plus office that deals with your benefit. They will tell you if the work you want to do meets the permitted work conditions.