Jobseeker’s Allowance

Last updated: 28 Feb 2022

For most people making a new claim, Jobseeker’s Allowance (called ‘new style’ JSA by the government) is a benefit based on national insurance contributions. New claims for this can still be made. In the past, an income-based form of JSA could be claimed if your income was low enough and you hadn’t paid national insurance contributions, or your contributory JSA had run out. Most people in that situation now have to claim Universal Credit  instead.  However, if you get any of the benefits replaced by Universal Credit (UC), you should NOT claim UC without getting further advice.

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for people who are expected to look for work. If you do not have to look for work (for example, if you a carer for a disabled person), you should check whether you can claim Carer’s Allowance instead. If you are sick or disabled, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance instead of JSA.

To claim Jobseeker’s Allowance you must:

  • Be below state pension age (you can check this on GOV.UK).
  • Be available for work.
  • Be actively seeking work.
  • Have a current claimant commitment or jobseeker’s agreement. This sets out the steps you will take to look for work.
  • Not be working 16 hours or more per week.
  • Not be a full time student.

To get contribution-based JSA (usually this will be ‘new style’), you also need to meet conditions based on your national insurance record. The tax years used will be the ones before the calendar year you are in (for example, in 2021, the tax years used will be 2018/19 and 2019/20). You will need to have paid Class 1 national insurance for part of that time (Class 2 will not help you to get JSA). Class 1 is the type of national insurance you pay if you are employed and national insurance is deducted from your wages before you get them.

If you are eligible for Universal Credit you can get Universal Credit at the same time or instead of new style JSA. You will be able to find more information on claiming JSA on the GOV.UK website, or in Northern Ireland, the NI Direct site. There is no financial advantage to claiming new style JSA at the same time as UC (your UC will be reduced by your JSA amount).

If you are a single parent on Jobseeker’s Allowance you may be able to restrict your availability for work to school hours only so that you are able to look after your children. You may also be able to restrict your availability because of your physical or mental condition, but do consider first whether you should claim Employment and Support Allowance instead.

This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.

We cannot provide advice on employment rights in Northern Ireland as the law is different. You can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.