Contribution based ESA: An employer’s guide

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Health Assured team

05 July 2019

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) offers financial support to ill and disabled employees who are unable to work due to the long-term effects of their condition.

The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) conduct ESA assessments to determine if individuals are eligible to receive this benefit and if so, what type.

There are three different types of ESA

  1. ‘New style’ ESA.
  2. Contribution-based ESA.
  3. Income-related based ESA.

New style ESA is for employees (or the self-employed) who, as well as having a disability or injury that affects their ability to work, have also made National Insurance (NI) contributions in the last two to three years.

It’s worth noting, the amount each claimant receives isn’t dependent on their income or savings.

Income-based ESA is available to people whose injury or disability affects their ability to work and they either get the severe disability premium or were eligible to get it within the last month. This type of ESA doesn’t limit eligibility based on NI contributions.

The rest of this article focuses on what contributions-based employment and support allowance is. It’ll serve as a guide for employers on what they’ll need to know when an employee’s applying for this type of ESA.

What is contribution-based ESA?

This benefit for an ESA is based on the employee’s NI contributions.

To be entitled to it, as well as having a disability or injury that affects their ability to work, employees will need to have made enough payments to their NI accounts over a two to three-year period.

Eligibility is also dependent on if they get (or are entitled to) severe disability premium or if they’ve previously gotten it or were entitled to it in the last month. People on contribution based ESA can get free prescriptions depending on their total household income and the condition that the prescription is supposed to treat.

It’s not uncommon for some employees to receive contribution based ESA and universal credit at the same time. However, it could limit other benefits that they’re entitled to, including access to mortgage assistance.

Is contribution based ESA means tested?

A means-test is the process used to determine if an individual or family is eligible for government support. It means their eligibility is dependent on the amount of income and capital they have.

It’s worth noting, unlike income-based ESA, there’s no link between contribution based ESA and saving. Payments aren’t dependent on the employee’s (or their partner’s) income or savings so applicants aren’t required to demonstrate that their income is below a certain level.

How much is contribution based ESA?

After applying for ESA and before the health assessment, the claimant will receive the assessment rate, which is:

  • Up to £57.90 a week for those aged under 25.
  • Up to £73.10 if they’re 25 or over.

After the health assessment, depending on which group they’ve been placed in, they’ll receive contribution based ESA rates, which are:

  • £73.10 for a work-related activity group
  • £111.65 for those in the support group.

Both ‘new style’ and contribution-based ESA last for one year for individuals in the work-related activity group. However, there’s no limit for those on income-based ESA or in a contribution-based ESA support group.

As for what happens when contribution based ESA ends, employees may be able to re-apply up to 12-weeks after it ends. Eligibility is dependent on:

  • If their health condition has deteriorated and they’re placed in a support group.
  • What NI contributions they’ve made in the last two full tax years before the year they’re claiming it.

How can you support employees with ESA?

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides a 24-hour helpline with legal, financial and counselling support.

Employees and managers can talk to our experts, they’re here to provide a listening ear to any problem you might be facing.

Whether they’re personal or professional challenges, our EAP offers a safe space to talk through it all.


Find out more about EAPs



If you have any questions, call us on 0800 206 2532

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