How to Claim Jobseekers Allowance
This should have everyone that are recently unemployed and wanting to make a claim.
Details of your local job centre offices can be found in our Online Job Centre section.
What is Jobseekers Allowance?
Jobseekers allowance is a state benefit paid by the Government to people who are not currently in work, but are capable of working and are actively seeking employment. It is processed at a Jobcentre Plus and claimants are required to attend regular meetings with advisors to prove they are seeking work, and to receive advice and support in their search. Jobseekers Allowance is a taxable benefit, meaning tax is due on payments received in the same was as a salary.
There are two types of Jobseekers Allowance:
- Contribution-based Jobseekers Allowance: If you have made enough National Insurance contributions over the previous two years, you may be entitled to contribution-based Jobseekers Allowance. These contributions usually have to be through full or part time employment, rather than self-employed tax declarations. It can be paid for up to 182 days.
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance: Income-based Jobseekers Allowance is paid based on your income and savings if you have in excess of a certain amount. If your savings are greater than £16,000, you are usually not eligible for Income-based Jobseekers Allowance. If you have less than £16,000 of savings, your benefit will be deducted £1 a week for each £250 you have saved.
Can I claim Jobseekers Allowance?
To be eligible for Jobseekers Allowance, there are a number of criteria you must comply with. The most important of these are:
- You are unemployed or working for fewer than 16 hours a week
- You are able and available for work
- You are doing everything possible to look for work
- You have made sufficient National Insurance contributions from your income or have savings of less than a certain amount
- You are 18 or over, and under the State Pension age
- You have agreed and signed a ‘Jobseeker’s Agreement’
- You are not in full-time education or studying
- You are resident in Great Britain.
If you are already in receipt of other benefits or have a personal or occupation pension, this may also make you ineligible to claim Jobseekers Allowance.
If you do not meet all of these criteria, don’t worry as it doesn’t necessarily mean you are not eligible for Jobseekers Allowance. The best thing to do is visit your local Jobcentre Plus to discuss your situation with an advisor. Whatever you do, don’t mislead a Jobcentre Plus advisor about your circumstances, as if you are caught you will lose all benefits, as well as face possible prosecution for benefits fraud.
Are there any other circumstances when I might not be entitled to my full Jobseekers Allowance?
Yes, there are some circumstances that can affect your entitlement to jobseekers allowance:
- If you quit – If you quit your job, you will need to have a good reason why, and be prepared that your Jobcentre Plus advisor has the right to speak with your former employer to confirm your reasons. If he decides your actions were reasonable, you will receive your benefit, but if he doesn’t you may lose your entitlement to benefits for anything between 13 weeks and 3 years.
- If you get fired – If you were fired for your last job, your Jobcentre Plus advisor again has the right to contact your former employer to find out why. If the conclusion reached is that you were fired for poor behaviour or actions, your can again be stripped of your benefits for anything between 13 weeks and 3 years.
So where do I start?
The first step is to contact your local Jobcentre Plus and arrange an appointment with an advisor. You can find your local Jobcentre Plus on the official Government website or by calling one of the following numbers on Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm:
- Telephone: 0800 055 6688
- Textphone: 0800 023 4888
- Welsh language line: 0800 012 1888
You will need to take the following documents with you to your first interview:
Please bring the following to the interview along with your CV, if you have one:
- Policy documents relating to any insurance policies covering the mortgage and/or loan(s) secured on your home
- A copy of any mortgage agreement, tenancy agreement, or service charge agreement relating to your home
- Two forms of identification, such as driving licence, passport, mortgage or rental agreement
- For payments (other than wages) that you have received or expect to receive because a job ended in the last 12 months: proof of payment/entitlement and any papers that say what the payment is for
- Your P45 or a form showing your tax district and tax reference number
You will then be interviewed and your adviser will put together a Jobseekers Agreement for you to sign.
What is a Jobseekers Agreement?
A Jobseekers Agreement is, as the name suggests, an agreement between you and the Job Centre Advisor. It is reached at your initial visit to the Job Centre to claim Jobseekers Allowance.
The agreement details the steps that you agree to take to find another job. It will usually identify the type of jobs you will be looking for, where you agree to look for them (such as job websites, newspapers, and the Jobcentre Plus resources), and how many applications you will make in a week.
You will be issued with a log-book to record any applications you make, and interviews you have, and will be required to attend regular meetings with your advisor to check on your progress.
The agreement itself is a signed document and failure to follow it, or to attend the regular meetings, can mean losing your benefit.
How often will I have to go to the Job Centre to claim my benefits?
After your initial meeting and signing your Jobseekers Agreement, you will be given regular appointments with your designated Job Advisor to check on the progress of your search for work.
These meetings will usually be arranged in advance, but can be subject to change at short notice. Attendance is obligatory for all meetings unless you have an excellent reason not to. Failure to attend agreed meetings can lead to you losing your benefits for up to three years.
Usually these meeting are scheduled for once a fortnight, but they can sometimes be more frequent.
At each meeting you will be expected to sign a declaration that you are still entitled to claim your Jobseekers Allowance, and you are still ‘actively seeking work’. This is the practice known as ‘signing on’.
You will also be required to demonstrate through your log-book and other means that you have been fulfilling the requirements of your Jobseekers Agreement.
Your Job Advisor will sometimes identify jobs for you, and the Job Centre does have its own jobs database which you should be given online access to, or can access in-house. They can also suggest training courses and other programmes which you might benefit from as well.
How soon do I have to be available to begin a new job?
The majority of those on Jobseekers Allowance are expected to make themselves available for any new work immediately. Once again, failure to do so can lead to you being stripped of your benefit.
There are a handful of exceptions to this rule, but they tend to apply to a small minority of applicants:
- If you provide a service (e.g. Community Service) – in which case you must be available within 24 hours.
- If you are involved in voluntary work – in which case you must be available to start work within one week, and to attend an interview within 48 hours.
- If you are a carer – again, you must be available to start work within one week, and to attend an interview within 48 hours.
- If you already work part time – if you already have a part-time job, you must be able to start work immediately at the end of your contractual notice period
Does it affect my claim if my partner is also out of work?
If you and your live-in partner are both currently unemployed, you may have to make a ‘joint claim’ for Jobseekers Allowance.
If you are eligible for a joint claim, you will both have to fulfil the usual criteria as outlined above, and you will both be expected to attend the regular fortnightly meetings
Should your partners’ employment or eligibility circumstances change, you are required to inform your Jobcentre Plus advisor at the earliest possible opportunity.
For full details on whether or not your circumstances require you to make a ‘joint claim’, contact your local Job Centre.
What can I do if I am aged 16 or 17, unemployed, and not at school?
If you are aged 16 or 17 and not in education, employment, or training you may be entitled to Jobseekers Allowance for a short time despite it only usually being paid to those aged 18 and above. TO be eligible you must fall into one of the following categories:
- you live away from your parents
- you have a partner and/or children
- you will find it hard to survive without the payments
In these circumstances, you must still meet many of the above requirements including being available immediately for work, be actively seeking work, and being resident in the UK. You should also be registered with your local council youth or careers service.
What happens if they find me a job but I don’t want it?
In your initial meeting with your job advisor, you will have agreed what sorts of jobs you are qualified to do, and you sign an agreement stating that you will apply for this type of role. If you then turn down an offer of work that falls within your Jobseekers Agreement, or don’t apply for a position that is recommended by your advisor, without good reason, you will lose your benefit for anything between 13 weeks and 3 years.
What happens to me if I do lose my Jobseekers Allowance?
If you are stripped of your Jobseekers allowance for the reasons outlined above, or any other reasons, you may be eligible to apply for Hardship payments. The success of this application will depend on whether you are considered to be in a vulnerable group, such as suffering from poor health or having dependent children.
What this I read about Universal Credit?
The current Government is in the process of introducing a Universal Credit which is intended to simplify and streamline the benefits system. Universal Credit is intended to eventually take over Jobseekers Allowance, and some other income-related benefits, and provide claimants with a single payment for anyone out of work or on low income.
However the roll-out of Universal Credit has been controversial and beset with problems, and despite officially beginning is April 2013, it has still only been introduced on a trial basis in a few areas of the country. If you live in the following areas, you are therefore likely to be applying for Universal Credit rather than Jobseekers Allowance. :
- Hammersmith, London
- North-West England
- Shotton, Wales
For a full explanation of how Universal Credit works take a look at the official Universal Credit website or speak to your local Job Centre.
How much will I get and how do I get my money?
If you are awarded Jobseekers allowance, you will be paid £72.40 per week if you are over 25, and £57.35 if you are under 25. This is amount is revised at the start of each financial year (beginning of April).
Your money will be paid straight into your chosen bank account by direct debit. It can be paid into a bank account, building society account, or Post Office account.
More Reading and help:
- Check out the latest job guides and career advice on our site, see “Career Advice” and “Career Guide” sections.
- Find out about Job Centres, including where your local office is, and how to contact it, through the our Job Centre Online pages..
- The Citizens Advice Bureau offers a range of resources to help those who need to know more about Jobseekers Allowance. You can visit their website for more information.