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Claiming benefits and working part-time

It is possible to work part-time and still be able to get some benefits to top up your wages.  However any earnings you receive from working may affect the amount of benefit that you receive.  The situation is currently quite complex with different rules for different benefits.  However, it should be easier for people to work out how much benefit they will keep once they are getting the new universal credit.
Income-based jobseeker’s allowance (IBJSA) or income support (IS)

If you receive IBJSA or IS you may be able to work up to 16 hours per week and your partner, if you have one, up to 24 hours per week. Some people, including certain carers who are looking after a person who is sick or disabled, may be able to claim income support even if they are working more than this – seek advice.

For IBJSA you are also expected to continue to meet the remaining basic labour market rules to be available for, actively seeking and capable of work.

Any earnings that you receive from doing paid work will count as income and will affect the amount of benefit that you can receive. However the regulations do allow for some of your earnings to be disregarded:

  • £5 for single claimants
  • £10 for couples (whether or not both are working)
  • £20 for lone parents, certain carers and certain people with disabilities.

Universal credit

Some people earning less than £338 a month may need to claim universal credit rather than income-based JSA once universal credit starts to roll-out in Hertfordshire for certain claimants during  2015/16.

Contribution-based jobseekers allowance (CBJSA)

You can work up to 16 hours a week but your earnings will affect the amount you can get. The following amounts are disregarded:

  • £5 of earnings or
  • £20 of earnings if you are an auxiliary coastguard, part-time fire-fighter or a part-time member of a lifeboat crew or member of the Territorial Army.

If you have a partner, their hours of work or earnings do not affect the amount of CBJSA you get.

Carer’s allowance

You can work and earn up to £102 a week and still get carer’s allowance as long as you are still caring at least 35 hours a week for someone getting DLA middle or higher care component or attendance allowance or PIP daily living component.  Provided your earnings are below the limit, the full amount of CA is payable.  Caring costs of up to half your net earnings can be disregarded if you pay someone other than a close relative to look after the disabled person you care for or a child under 16.

Employment and support allowance, incapacity benefit (IB) and severe disablement allowance (SDA)

If you are ill or disabled and unable to work you may be getting employment and support allowance (ESA), incapacity benefit (IB) or severe disablement allowance (SDA). Some people can be receiving IB or SDA, which is topped-up by income support, or income support on its own. 

However, all existing claimants of incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance and income support, paid on the basis of incapacity, are being migrated over to employment and support allowance.

Usually, if you start work, your ESA, IB or SDA will stop. However in some circumstances, you can work and keep getting ESA, IB or SDA. 

You can do voluntary work without it affecting your benefit. You can also do other work called permitted work.

Permitted work

Permitted work allows you to try some paid work but you will need to tell the office that deals with you benefit claim. You do not need a letter or any agreement from your doctor. 

There are different types of permitted work.

  • Work done as part of a hospital treatment programme carried out under medical supervision for earnings which do not exceed £104.00 a week for an unlimited period.
  • ‘Permitted work lower limit’.  This is any work undertaken for no more than £20 a week for as long as you are in receipt of benefit.
  • ‘Supported permitted work’ for earnings which do not exceed £104.00 a week for as long as you are on benefit.  Supported work means work that is supervised by someone  employed by a public or local authority or voluntary organisation, whose job it is to arrange work for people with disabilities.
  • ‘Permitted work higher limit’.  This is work of less than 16 hours a week, with earnings which do not exceed £104.00 per week for up to a maximum of 52 weeks. Subsequent periods of work are allowed but there must usually be a gap of at least 52 weeks between periods of working.  However some people can do this work for an indefinite period, for example, if you are in the support group for ESA.

What happens when you do permitted work?

If you earn up to the limits above you can keep all of your ESA (both contributory and income-related).  You can also keep all of your incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance but, if you earn more, these benefits will stop completely. 

Permitted work earnings are also disregarded in full for housing benefit if you are in receipt of employment and support allowance, incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance.

If you are getting income support on the basis of incapacity and you work less than 16 hours a week doing permitted work you may still get income support if your wages are low enough but your earnings will be taken into account, minus a £20 disregard. 

Income tax, national insurance contributions, half of occupational pension contributions and, in some cases, childcare costs are taken off these earnings when working out how much you earn.

What if I have limited capability for work and claim universal credit?

There is no permitted work rule in 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 work. However if you are earning the equivalent of at least 16 hours per week paid at the national minimum wage, there are special rules which affect whether you can get the extra amounts that are paid because you have limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA).

If you have already been found to have LCW or LCWRA in your universal credit assessment, you will continue to have it included in your calculation once you are earning at least 16 times the national minimum wage.  You will only lose the element if you fail the work capability assessment at a later claim review.

However if you are working and have not already had an assessment prior to starting work, you can only apply to be assessed for LCW/LCWRA if you are entitled to DLA or PIP or  earning less then the minimum wage times 16 hours per week.