Unemployment benefits: what are you entitled to?

Being unemployed is often horribly stressful, especially if you’re not sure how you’ll make ends meet whilst you’re out of work.

However, there are unemployment benefits available to help you cover your household bills until you’re able to find work.

If you find yourself without a job, then the main benefit you may be able to claim is Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

There are three main types of Jobseeker’s Allowance:

  • ‘New style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

The type or types you’ll receive may depend on your household circumstances and on the National Insurance Contributions (NICs) you’ve made.

On top of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), you may also be able to claim Universal Credit to help you cover costs like housing. Universal Credit now replaces a number of other benefits you may have normally claimed such as Housing Benefit and Tax Credits.

New-style Jobseeker’s Allowance

New-style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is usually available to people who have made enough Class 1 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) in the last two full tax years. If you’re eligible, you’ll be able to claim it for up to six months while you look for a job. It will be paid into your bank account, building society or credit union on a fortnightly basis. New-style Jobseeker’s Allowance is not means-tested, whilst Universal Credit is.

Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

If you (or your partner) are above the Pension Credit age and have made significant Class 1 National Insurance Contributions (NICs), you might be able to claim Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

If you’re eligible to claim this benefit you will not need to claim Universal Credit, and you will also be able to claim other benefits like Tax Credits or Housing Benefit.

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit, so the majority of people will now have to make a claim for Universal Credit instead.

This is a means-tested benefit so whether you can claim will depend on your household income.

Although income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is being phased out, you may still be able to make a new claim if:

  • You or your partner are above Pension Credit age
  • You are not eligible to claim contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) because you have NOT made enough Class 1 National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

Each type of Jobseeker’s Allowance pays a certain amount each week which varies depending on your age.

For example, if you’re aged 18-24 you can get up to £57.90 a week, rising to £73.10 if you’re 25 or over, and £114.85 if you’re claiming income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance as a couple.

The amount you get will depend on other factors, such as if you’re working part-time, in which case you’ll get less than the amounts shown above.

Find out more about Jobseeker’s Allowance and how to claim here.

Tax Credits

Universal Credit is replacing Working Tax Credits (WTC) and Child Tax Credits (CTC) so most people will no longer be able to make a claim for either of these.

If you’re already receiving tax credits and you lose your job, you may need to apply for Universal Credit as a result of your change in circumstances.

It’s important that you tell the Tax Credit Office about a change in circumstances within 30 days. To do this, you can call the Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900.

If either you or your partner are of Pension Credit age then, you might still be able to make a claim – it’s best to call the Tax Credit Office to find out whether you’re eligible.

Benefits to help with Housing Costs

If you’re struggling to pay your rent after losing your job then – depending on your income and savings – you may be able to apply for Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit.

Find out how Universal Credit can help with housing costs on GOV.UK

Tell me more about Housing Benefit on GOV.UK

Help with Council Tax

If you’ve lost your job and you’re now unemployed, you may be able to apply for a reduction to your Council Tax bills.

Help with mortgage and interest payments

Are you a homeowner? If yes, you might be able to get help with your mortgage interest payments.

Will I be able to apply for benefits if I’ve been sacked?

If you left your job without good reason or were dismissed as a result of misconduct then there might be a delay before you can start receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.

This delay is often a result of your Jobcentre Plus work coach stopping your benefit for a number of weeks after you left your job – in other words they may apply a sanction to your benefit. The amount of time your benefit is stopped for will be entirely up to your work coach.

Going back to work

If you go back to work or your circumstances change, then you must remember to tell Jobcentre Plus or the Jobs and Benefits Office.

If you are receiving Tax Credits, then you must notify the Tax Credits Office that you have returned to work, otherwise you could be fined up to £300.

Returning to work on a low income

If you return to work but your income is still low, you may be entitled to some help. For example, although your payments of Jobseeker’s Allowance will stop, you may still be able to claim Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits – or Universal Credit.

A note on redundancy

If you’re unemployed because you have been made redundant, then the benefits above may still apply, depending on how much statutory redundancy pay you receive from your employer.

If your redundancy payment is £16,000 or more, then it is unlikely that you will qualify for any means-tested benefits. If you are living with a partner, their income will also be taken into account when deciding whether you are eligible to make a claim.

Find out more about statutory redundancy pay 

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