Working and benefits

If you receive benefits, working or volunteering can affect what you’re entitled to claim.

Below you’ll find information on various benefits and how they can be affected if you take up a job or volunteer role.

Please note that Norfolk County Council isn’t responsible for benefit payments. For more information about benefits or make an application, go to the GOV.UK website.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

This benefit is paid if your ability to work is limited by either ill health or disability.

If you apply for the benefit you may need to have a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). This is to see how much your illness or disability affects your ability to work. 

You might be able to work and still claim ESA, depending on your pay and hours.

Permitted work

This won't usually affect your ESA. It’s permitted work if both the following apply:

  • You earn up to £131.50 a week
  • You work less than 16 hours a week

There’s no limit on how many weeks your permitted work can last for.

Supported permitted work

It shouldn’t affect your ESA if you’re involved in supported permitted work and earn up to £131.50 a week. 

To qualify as supported permitted work, your job must be one of the following:

  • Part of a treatment programme
  • Supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation, whose job it is to arrange work for disabled people

If you start working

You’ll need to fill in a permitted work form and send it to the Jobcentre Plus office that deals with your benefit. If you’re doing paid work you must be earning at least the minimum wage.

You’ll also need to tell Jobcentre Plus if you do any volunteer work. This doesn't normally affect your ESA.  

You may be asked to attend a WCA while you are in a period of agreed permitted work. If you work regular hours on regular days for more than 16 hours a week, it’s likely you’ll be considered capable of doing this on a paid basis. You may lose your ESA as a result. 

Universal Credit 

If you start work, you can still claim Universal Credit (UC), but it will gradually reduce as you earn more. There’s no limit to the number of hours you can work. 

If your income goes above the UC award level, you'll be told that your UC is stopping. You'll have to make a new claim via your online account if your income later reduces.

Work allowance 

If you receive UC, you may be eligible for a work allowance. This is the amount you can earn before it affects your UC payment.

You’ll only be eligible for a work allowance if you or your partner have either:

  • Responsibility for a child
  • Limited capability for work

The monthly work allowances are set at:

  • £287 if your UC includes housing support
  • £503 if you don’t receive housing support

Once you earn more than the work allowance your payments will be reduced at a rate of 63%. This is known as the Universal Credit earnings taper. 

This means that if you’re eligible for the work allowance, for every £1 you earn over that figure your UC will be reduced by 63p.  

For more information about Universal Credit, including how to report a change in circumstances, visit the GOV.UK website.

Income Support

If you’re receiving Income Support you’ll only continue to get that benefit if you work less than 16 hours a week and your partner works less than 24 hours a week. 

Your income from work will be taken into account when calculating how much Income Support you’ll get. 

When you work out your earnings, you can exclude the first:

  • £5 a week if you’re single with no children
  • £10 a week if you’re claiming as a couple
  • £20 a week if you’re a single parent, disabled or a carer

For more information about Income Support, go to the GOV.UK website.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

If you receive Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and start work, you’ll continue to get the benefit as long as you work less than 16 hours per week on average.

If you receive income-based JSA, then your partner’s working hours will also be taken into consideration. They’ll need to work less than 24 hours a week on average for you to continue receiving the benefit.

The amount you earn will also affect how much you will be paid in JSA, as with Income Support (see the section above).

For more details about the different types of JSA and how to claim or report a change in circumstances, visit the GOV.UK website.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction

These will be reduced by 65p for every £1 you get in extra income above the benefits you'd get if you weren't working.

However, if you receive another income-based benefit then this reduction may not apply. See the GOV.UK website for more details on Housing Benefit.

Carer’s Allowance

If you claim Carer’s Allowance you can earn up to £123 a week after tax and expenses. You won’t be entitled to claim it if you earn above this amount after tax and expenses.  

To find out more about Carer’s Allowance, its effect on other benefits and if you’re eligible to claim or not, go to the GOV.UK website.

Benefits not affected by working or volunteering

If you claim Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) these shouldn’t be affected by working or volunteering. The work you do may be considered in future assessments. 

If you're working or volunteering because your condition has improved, you must contact the PIP enquiry line if you claim PIP or the Disability Service Centre if you claim DLA to let them know about your change in circumstances.