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Chapter 14: Jobseeker’s allowance
This chapter covers:
1. What is jobseeker’s allowance (here)
2. Who is eligible (here)
3. Basic rules (here)
4. Amount of benefit (here)
5. Claiming jobseeker’s allowance (here)
6. Challenging a decision (here)
7. Other benefits and tax credits (here)
Basic facts
– Jobseeker’s allowance provides basic financial support for people who are expected to ‘sign on’ for work.
– Full-time students are not normally eligible.
– Part-time students are eligible if they are available for work.
– You do not need to have paid national insurance contributions to qualify, but you might get more money if you have.
– The amount is usually affected by any grant, loan or other income you may have.
1. What is jobseeker’s allowance
Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) provides basic financial support for people of working age who are not working full time and who are expected to ‘sign on’ as available for work.
Full-time students are normally excluded from JSA, but there are exceptions. Part-time students are eligible if they are available for work.
If you have paid sufficient national insurance contributions, you get contribution-based JSA for the first six months. This is paid on top of any student or other income you might have. Otherwise, you may get income-based JSA. This is means tested, so most of your student income and most other income is taken into account when working out how much benefit you get. Chapter 22 explains how your income affects your benefit.
Note: you cannot usually make a new claim for income-based JSA, as it is in the process of being replaced by universal credit. However, an exception applies if you get, or got in the past month (and continue to satisfy the rules for it), a severe disability premium (see here) in your income-based JSA, income support, income-related employment and support allowance or housing benefit.
This exception ended on 26 January 2021.
2. Who is eligible
As new claims cannot usually be made for income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) (see above for exceptions), most students getting income-based JSA will be those who were already on this before starting the course, and who are eligible for income-based JSA as a student (which mainly applies to part-time students). If you cannot claim income-based JSA, you may be able to get universal credit instead (see Chapter 18).
To qualify for JSA, you must not be excluded as a student, and you must satisfy the basic rules. See below for details of students who are eligible. The basic rules are covered on here.
Note: the following rules for full-time students and young people in relevant education do not apply to contribution-based JSA if you are making a new claim for JSA and you do not already get income support (IS), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) or housing benefit (HB) that includes a severe disability premium. This is sometimes called ‘new-style’ JSA. You can only get ‘new-style’ contribution-based JSA and study full time if you took time out of your course because of illness or caring responsibilities, you have now recovered or the caring responsibilities have ended, and you are waiting to rejoin your course.1Reg 45(6) JSA Regs 2013
 
1     Reg 45(6) JSA Regs 2013 »
Under 20 in relevant education
You cannot get JSA while in ‘relevant education’.1s1(2)(g) JSA 1995
Relevant education
You are in ‘relevant education’ if:
– your course is non-advanced (ie, school level or below degree, Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma level) of more than 12 hours a week;2Reg 54 JSA Regs and
– you are under 19, or aged 19 and were accepted on, enrolled on or started your course before you turned 19.
This is the same definition as that used for child benefit and similar to that for child tax credit (CTC). So, although you cannot get JSA for yourself, your parents may still be able to get child benefit and CTC for you.
A special rule allows part-time students who have been on benefit for some months to study and get JSA at the same time, even though their course is over 12 hours a week. This applies if your course is not full time according to the rules below that apply to most students over 19, and you got JSA or ESA, or you were on an apprenticeship or similar training:
during the last three months before the start of the course; or
for three out of the last six months before the course if you were working the rest of the time.
 
1     s1(2)(g) JSA 1995 »
2     Reg 54 JSA Regs »
19 or over and a full-time student
You cannot usually get JSA as a full-time student aged 19 or over (and not in relevant education - see above), whether in advanced or non-advanced education, at any time during your ‘period of study’.1Reg 15(1)(a) JSA Regs
Period of study
Your ‘period of study’ is the whole of your course from the first day you attend or undertake the course to the last day - ie, the last day of the final academic year, including short and long vacations.2Regs 4 and 130 JSA Regs It includes a period of study in connection with the course after you have stopped doing the course itself. It does not include freshers’ week, unless your course actually starts that week.3Vol 6, para 30221 DMG
You are not a student in between courses. For example, you can get JSA in the summer between completing an undergraduate degree and starting a postgraduate course.
Postgraduates writing up their thesis at the end of a course may be regarded by the DWP as being in ‘a period of study undertaken by the student in connection with the course’. However, guidance for decision makers says someone is ‘not a full-time student during the period after the end of the course when they are expected to complete any course work’.4Vol 6, para 30238 DMG To get JSA, you must show that you are available for and actively looking for work. If you say you are not prepared to fit your thesis writing around a job, should one come up, the DWP will decide that you are not available for work.
 
1     Reg 15(1)(a) JSA Regs »
2     Regs 4 and 130 JSA Regs »
3     Vol 6, para 30221 DMG »
4     Vol 6, para 30238 DMG  »
What counts as full time
In most cases, the college or university defines whether the course is full or part time. However, for some further education (FE) students, there is a 16-hour study rule. The JSA rules are the same as those for IS (see here).
Who can get jobseeker’s allowance
You can get JSA in the following circumstances. Note: you cannot usually make a new claim for income-based JSA (see here).
You are in a couple, both of you are full-time students and you have a dependent child aged under 16, or aged under 20 and a qualifying young person (see here). You can get JSA during the summer vacation only. The person who claims must be available for work and meet all the other basic rules for JSA.1Reg 15(2) and (3) JSA Regs
You are a single person with a dependent child aged under 16, or aged under 20 and a qualifying young person (see here). You can get JSA during the summer vacation only. You must be available for work and meet all the other basic rules for JSA.2Reg 15(2) and (3) JSA Regs
Your course must be regarded by your work coach at the Jobcentre Plus office as a qualifying course. You must be aged 25 or over and have been getting JSA for at least two years before the course starts. During term time you are not expected to sign on or look for work, although you may be required to provide evidence of your attendance and progress on the course. During vacations, you are expected to look for casual work.3Regs 17A and 21A JSA Regs
You are on a full-time employment-related course approved by your work coach at the Jobcentre Plus office. You can get JSA for just two weeks.4Reg 14(1)(a) JSA Regs
 
1     Reg 15(2) and (3) JSA Regs »
2     Reg 15(2) and (3) JSA Regs »
3     Regs 17A and 21A JSA Regs »
4     Reg 14(1)(a) JSA Regs »
Under 19 and in full-time advanced education
You cannot usually get JSA if you are under 19 and studying full time in advanced education. The rules are the same for you as they are for full-time students aged 19 or over (see here).
Studying part time
You can get JSA while studying part time. You must continue to pass all the basic rules for JSA, including being available for work and actively looking for work.
What counts as part time
Generally, your college or university determines whether you count as a part-time or full-time student, rather than the number of hours you study or attend lectures.1Reg 1(b)(i), definition of ‘full-time student’, JSA Regs The rules are the same as for IS (see here).
However, if you are under age 20 and in relevant education, there is a 12-hour rule (see here). Your course is full time if it is more than 12 hours a week of classes and supervised study in term time.
If you are aged 19 or over (and not a 19 year old in ‘relevant education’) at an FE college but not on a higher education course, there is a 16-hour rule for courses funded, or partly funded, by the government. A part-time course is up to 16 hours a week of guided learning.2Reg 1(b)(iii), definition of ‘full-time student’, JSA Regs This is set out in a learning agreement provided by your college.
 
Examples
Shona is 20 and attending an FE college, studying for A levels. She has 10 hours a week of classes and 10 hours a week of timetabled independent study. She is classed as a part-time student.
Keira is 24 and at an FE college on a NVQ level 2 course. She has classes for 18 hours a week and three hours of timetabled study. She is classed as a full-time student.
Russell is 18 and studying for a BTEC. He has 15 hours of classes a week. He is classed as full time.
Saleem is 19 and studying for a degree. He has 15 hours of lectures a week. The university regards his course as full time. He is classed as a full-time student for JSA.
 
1     Reg 1(b)(i), definition of ‘full-time student’, JSA Regs »
2     Reg 1(b)(iii), definition of ‘full-time student’, JSA Regs »
Studying and availability for work
If you are getting JSA, you may have agreed which hours of the day and which days of the week you are available for work. This ‘pattern of availability’ is set out in your ‘claimant commitment’. You are allowed to do this provided the hours you choose still give you a reasonable chance of getting work and do not considerably reduce your prospects of getting work.
If the hours you study are completely different to the hours you have agreed to be available for work, you should have no problem. If, however, there is some overlap, or if you have agreed to be available for work at any time of day and on any day of the week, the DWP must be satisfied that you are available for work despite your course. It expects you to:
rearrange the hours of your course to fit round a job or be prepared to give up the course if a job comes up; and
be ready to take time off the course to attend a job interview; and
be ready to start work immediately.
Guidance tells DWP decision makers to look at various factors when deciding whether you are genuinely available for work, such as:1Vol 4, para 21242 DMG
what you are doing to look for work;
whether your course will help you get work. Bear in mind that if you say the course is necessary to get the kind of job you want, the DWP may assume you are not prepared to give it up to do another kind of job and, therefore, decide you are not available for work;
whether you can be contacted about a possible job if you are studying away from home;
whether you gave up work or training to do the course;
your hours of attendance on the course;
whether it is possible to change the hours if necessary;
whether you could still complete the course if you missed some classes;
how much you paid for the course and whether any fees could be refunded if you gave up the course. The DWP is likely to assume that you are not prepared to give up the course to take a job if you have paid a significant amount in course fees;
whether any grant would need to be repaid if you gave up your course.
At the Jobcentre Plus office you are given a student questionnaire, Form ES567S Attending a Training or Education Course, to complete.
However, the DWP does not need to know about any of the above factors if you got JSA, incapacity benefit, IS on incapacity for work grounds or ESA, or were on an apprenticeship or similar training:
during the last three months before the start of the course; or
for three out of the last six months before the course if you were working the rest of the time.
If this applies to you and your course hours overlap with your pattern of availability but you are willing and able to rearrange them in order to take up employment, no other questions about your course are relevant to your availability for work.2Reg 11 JSA Regs You need only complete Part 1 of the student questionnaire and sign Part 3.
Once you have qualified for JSA, you must continue to be available for work and actively look for work. When you ‘sign on’, you must show what steps you have taken to look for work – eg, checked job adverts or applied for jobs. If you do not look for work each week, or you turn down a job or interview, you could be given a sanction and lose some or all of your JSA, which could be for up to three years. If this happens, you can appeal. You might be able to reduce the amount of the sanction or have it overturned. Get advice about this and ask for a hardship payment in the meantime.
Open University students can attend a residential course for up to a week and keep their JSA. You are not expected to be available for, or to look for, work during that week.3Regs 14(1)(f) and 19(1)(f) JSA Regs
 
1     Vol 4, para 21242 DMG »
2     Reg 11 JSA Regs »
3     Regs 14(1)(f) and 19(1)(f) JSA Regs »
16/17 year olds
Usually you can only get JSA if you are aged 18 or over. If you are under 18, you can get income-based JSA in the following circumstances, provided you meet all the other entitlement conditions.
You are in severe hardship. All your circumstances should be considered. Payments are discretionary and usually for just eight weeks at a time.
You come within one of the groups of people who can claim IS. These are the same groups as for part-time students who can claim IS (see here).
You are a couple with a child.
You are married or in a civil partnership and your partner is aged 18 or over. JSA is paid for a limited period after you leave full-time education.
You are married or in a civil partnership and your partner is under 18 and registered for work or training, or long-term sick or disabled, or a student who can claim IS, or a carer who can claim IS. JSA is paid for a limited period after you leave full-time education.
You are leaving local authority care and are a lone parent.1C(LC)SSB Regs JSA is usually paid for just eight weeks. Note: your local authority social services department may give financial support if you have been in care.
 
1     C(LC)SSB Regs »
3. Basic rules
As well as being a student who is eligible for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), you must satisfy all of the basic rules.1s1 JSA 1995
You are available for work. You must be willing and able to take up work immediately (although some people are allowed notice). You must be prepared to work at least 40 hours a week. People with caring responsibilities and disabled people can restrict themselves to fewer than 40 hours. During your child’s school holidays, you are not expected to be available for work if there is no childcare reasonable for you to arrange, but this provision does not apply if you are a full-time student.2Reg 15(4) JSA Regs
You are actively seeking work.
You have a claimant commitment. This sets out, for instance, the hours you have agreed to work, the type of work you are looking for and any restrictions on travel and pay.
If you are doing any work, it is for less than 16 hours a week. You can get contribution-based JSA if your partner is working, but not income-based JSA unless s/he works less than 24 hours a week.
You are capable of work (although you can continue to get JSA for up to 13 weeks while sick).
You are under pension age (age 66 in October 2020).
You are in Great Britain, although JSA can be paid in other countries in some circumstances. See CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for details.
You meet the conditions for either contribution-based JSA or income-based JSA (see below). If you meet the conditions for both, you get contribution-based JSA topped up by income-based JSA.
 
1     s1 JSA 1995 »
2     Reg 15(4) JSA Regs »
Contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance
You must have paid sufficient national insurance contributions to qualify for contribution-based JSA, as well as meeting all the basic rules above.1s2 JSA 1995
You must have paid class 1 contributions on earnings of at least the lower earnings limit in 26 weeks, which need not be consecutive, in one of the two complete tax years (6 April to 5 April) before the start of the benefit year (which runs from the first Sunday in January) in which you claim. You also must have paid or been credited with class 1 contributions on earnings of 50 times the lower earnings limit in these years.
For example, you qualify if you claim JSA in 2020 and you paid contributions on earnings of £5,650 in the tax year April 2017 to April 2018 and £5,800 in the tax year April 2018 to April 2019, earning in the first year £113 a week or more, or in the second year £116 a week or more, for at least 26 weeks.
 
1     s2 JSA 1995 »
Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
As well as satisfying all the basic rules above, to get income-based JSA you must meet the following conditions.1ss3 and 13 JSA 1995
You are aged 18 or over. You can still get income-based JSA if you are aged 16 or 17 but there are extra rules (see here).
You satisfy the ‘habitual residence’ and ‘right to reside’ tests, and are not a ‘person subject to immigration control’. These terms are explained in CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook. Further advice for overseas students is available from UKCISA (see Appendix 2).
Your income is below the amount set for your basic living needs (known as your ‘applicable amount’).
You have no more than £16,000 capital. See Chapter 22 for how your income and capital affect your benefits.
You do not get pension credit.
 
1     ss3 and 13 JSA 1995 »
4. Amount of benefit
Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) is payable after seven ‘waiting days’. You may get contribution-based JSA and/or income-based JSA, depending on your circumstances.
Contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance
The amount of contribution-based JSA depends on your age.
Weekly rate from April 2020
Under 25
£58.90
25 or over
£74.35
You may get less than this if you have part-time earnings or an occupational or personal pension, but the amount is not affected by a student loan or grant. Contribution-based JSA is only paid for up to 26 weeks. After that, you can claim income-based JSA if your income is low enough. Unlike income-based JSA, you only get amounts for yourself, not for a partner.
Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
Income-based JSA is worked out in the same way as income support (IS). The amount you get is made up of:
personal allowances;
premiums;
housing costs – ie, certain service charges.
The total of these is called your ‘applicable amount’. If you have no other income (the student loan and some grants count as income), you are paid your full applicable amount. Otherwise, any income you have is topped up with income-based JSA to the level of your applicable amount. If your weekly income is above your applicable amount, you are not entitled to income-based JSA. See Chapter 22 for how to work out your weekly income. See Chapter 13 for how to work out your applicable amount. The rules are almost the same as for IS, with the following differences.
If you are in a couple and only one of you is under 18, you get the higher £116.80 personal allowance if the younger partner is responsible for a child or is eligible for income-based JSA, severe hardship payments, IS (or would be if not a member of a couple) or income-related employment and support allowance (ESA).
If you are in a couple and both of you are under 18, you get the higher £87.50 personal allowance if:
you or your partner are responsible for a child;
both of you would be eligible for income-based JSA, or your partner would be eligible for IS or income-related ESA if you were both single;
you are both eligible for severe hardship payments, or one of you is while the other is eligible for income-based JSA, IS or income-related ESA;
you are married or civil partners and one of you is registered with the Careers Service (or Careers Wales in Wales), or both of you are eligible for income-based JSA.
If you are in a ‘joint-claim couple’ (see below), you can get a disability premium (at the couple rate) if one of you has had limited capability for work for 364 days (196 days if terminally ill). You must claim ESA to establish limited capability for work, even if you might not get it.
5. Claiming jobseeker’s allowance
You start your claim for contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) online (see gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance/how-to-claim). If you are claiming JSA, rather than universal credit, because you qualify for a severe disability premium in another benefit (eg, housing benefit or employment and support allowance) (see here), you start your claim by phoning Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888).
You are usually given an appointment for an interview. Claim as soon as you can, as JSA can only be backdated in very limited circumstances. If you are under 18, you should register with the Careers Service (Careers Wales in Wales) first.
At the interview, you are asked to complete Form ES2, Helping You Back to Work, which has questions about looking for work. When filling in this form, remember that even though you are a student, you are expected to be available for work and actively looking for work. Make sure your answers do not cast doubt on your willingness to work. If you are a part-time student, you are also given the student questionnaire to complete and are asked for a learning agreement from your college to show that you are studying part time.
Couples
If you are a full-time student or in relevant education but your partner is not, s/he can get JSA for both of you if s/he is eligible for JSA.1Sch A1 JSA Regs; Vol 6, para 30245 DMG You both need to claim, but only your partner must continue to sign on and look for work. Similarly, your partner can get JSA for both of you if you are not yet a full-time student, but you have applied for, or been accepted on, a course.
Most other couples, including if one or both of you are part-time students, need to claim income-based JSA jointly. This means that both of you must make the claim, be eligible for JSA, sign on and look for work.
Some people need not claim jointly. Only the person who makes the claim for the couple must be eligible and sign on if:
you have dependent children; or
you are both under 18.
 
1     Sch A1 JSA Regs; Vol 6, para 30245 DMG »
6. Challenging a decision
If you think a decision about your jobseeker’s allowance is wrong, you can ask the DWP to look at it again. This process is known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. Provided you ask within the time limit (usually one month), the DWP notifies you of the decision in a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’. If you are still not happy when you get this notice, you can appeal to the independent First-tier Tribunal. If it was not possible to ask the DWP to reconsider the decision within a month, you can ask for a late revision (within 13 months), explaining why it is late. You can also ask the DWP to look at a decision again at any time if certain grounds are met – eg, if there has been an official error.
7. Other benefits and tax credits
If you get contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), you can claim universal credit as well. You cannot get income support (IS) and JSA at the same time, so if you are eligible for both, you must choose which to claim. In general, the amounts of income-based JSA and IS are the same, but you are not expected to sign on for work for IS.
Child tax credit (CTC) and, except for some existing claimants, child benefit are ignored as income when JSA is assessed. If you have been getting income-based JSA since before 6 April 2004 and still have amounts for children included in your JSA, child benefit is taken into account as income.
If you get income-based JSA, you are also eligible as a student for housing benefit provided you meet the other rules of entitlement.
JSA is taken into account when calculating whether the benefit cap applies (see here and here).
Passported benefits
Provided you meet any other conditions, getting income-based JSA entitles you
to:
free prescriptions;
free dental treatment;
free sight tests;
vouchers for glasses;
Healthy Start vouchers and free vitamins;
social fund payments;
free school lunches from the local authority.
Contribution-based JSA does not give you automatic access to these benefits, but you may qualify for health benefits on low income grounds. See Chapter 11 for details.

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