Jobseeker's Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance is the main benefit for people of working age who are out of work or work less than 16 hours a week on average. If you're eligible, it is paid while you're looking for work.

The Department for Communities has been working to minimise any potential disruption in relation to industrial action on Friday 26th July. All benefit payments will be issued as normal. All digital benefit services are available as usual.Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) customers are excused signing for 26th July. Telephone lines may be busier than normal.


To get Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) you must:

  • be available for work, capable of work and actively seeking work
  • be aged 18 or over but below State Pension age
  • work less than 16 hours per week on average, depending on the amount of your wage
  • not be in certain types of education
  • not receive certain other benefits
  • live in Northern Ireland

16 and 17 year olds

16 and 17 year olds can't usually get JSA, however, you may be able to get income-based JSA if:

  • you're forced to live away from your parents
  • you'll suffer severe hardship if you don't get JSA
  • you and your partner are responsible for a child (if you are a lone parent, you can claim Income Support instead)

Being available for work

You must usually be available to start work immediately but if you:

  • have caring responsibilities for an adult, you must be available to start work within one week
  • have caring responsibilities for a child, you must be available to go to a job interview within one week and start work within 28 days
  • provide a service, you must be available to start work within 24 hours
  • are involved in voluntary work, you must be available to start work within one week and go to an interview within 48 hours

You may be able to restrict the number of hours you are available for work if you have caring responsibilities, or if you have a physical or mental condition that affects the work you can do.

Contribution-based JSA

Contribution-based JSA can be paid for up to 182 days. Generally, self-employed contributions will not help you qualify for contribution-based JSA.

National Insurance contributions

Whether you are entitled to contribution-based JSA depends on the National Insurance contributions you have paid over the last two complete tax years before the benefit year you make your claim in.

A benefit year starts in January (on the first Sunday of that month) and ends the following January (on the Saturday immediately before the first Sunday of that month). Below is an example.

If you made a claim on 17 February 2017, this would fall in benefit year 2017. This means the contributions you paid during the tax years 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 would be used to work out your benefit.

If you have received other benefits before you claim JSA, this may affect the date your claim will begin. If you are in any doubt about the contributions you have paid and how this will affect your contribution-based JSA, contact your local Jobs and Benefits office. This is especially important towards the end of the benefit year. The contribution year your benefit is based on will start in January. 

Income-based JSA

Universal Credit is being introduced in Northern Ireland on a phased geographical basis. If you live in an area where Universal Credit is available, you should make a claim for it instead of income-based JSA.

This is based on your income and savings. You may get this if you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions or you've only paid contributions for self-employment and you're on a low income.

For more information about National Insurance contributions, go to:

'New style' JSA

If you live in an area where Universal Credit is available and have paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions, you may be entitled to JSA, known as 'new style' JSA.

'New style' JSA works in the same way as contribution-based JSA. Your partner’s income and savings won’t affect how much you’re paid.

You can get ‘new style’ JSA for up to 182 days. Depending on your circumstances, it can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit.

If you get both at the same time, your ‘new style’ JSA payment will be deducted from your Universal Credit payment – you aren’t guaranteed to get any extra money.

If you get ‘new style’ JSA, you will get class 1 National Insurance credits. In some circumstances you may only get these credits and no money.

How to claim 

To claim, contact your local Jobs and Benefits office.

You'll need to go to an interview at the Jobs and Benefits office. An adviser will help you draw up a 'jobseeker's agreement' which will set out the steps you agree to take to find work.

To keep getting benefit you'll have to go to regular job search reviews, usually every fortnight. There's a longer review if you've been getting benefit for 13 weeks.

Claim with your partner (joint claim)

You must make a joint claim with your partner if:

  • you both want to claim JSA
  • at least one of you is 18 or over
  • you're both under State Pension age
  • neither of you are responsible for a child


Couples do not need to make a joint claim if:

  • one of you works over 16 hours but less than 24 hours when making the claim
  • one of you no longer qualifies
  • one of you is over State Pension age
  • one of you gets Young Person’s Bridging Allowance
  • payment of a European Economic Area imported benefit is being made (whether or not there is also an element of income based JSA)
  • one of you is from abroad (outside the UK)
  • one of you is under immigration controls and has no rights to public funds or cannot get a work permit
  • one of you is pregnant, within 11 weeks of your due date and do not wish to make yourself available for work or are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance
  • one of you gets Statutory Sick Pay from a job of 16 hours or more per week
  • one of you is temporarily absent from the UK at the date of the claim

The following people can still make a joint claim even if they do not meet the conditions above: 

  • people incapable of work due to pregnancy
  • carers
  • people over Pension Credit age
  • refugees on a course to improve their English
  • people required to go to court
  • certain people in relevant education
  • people aged 18 in full time education
  • people in employment who live in a residential home
  • people involved in a trade dispute
  • people with limited capability for work
  • certain disabled workers
  • blind people

What else you should know

In some circumstances you can be excused from having to meet some JSA rules, for example:

  • that you must be capable of work
  • that you must not be in full time education

Only one of you can be excused at a time.

Your Jobs and Benefits office will tell you the start date and length of time you can be excused for.

You will not receive National Insurance credits for the period you are excused unless certain circumstances apply. Your Jobs and Benefits office can advise you further.

SMS messages

When claiming Job Seekers Allowance you may receive text messages (SMS) from the Department for Communities (DfC). They will always be clearly marked as DfC and will never ask you to give, or click a link to give, personal information or financial details by message or email.

If you’re concerned or unsure about any text messages (SMS) you receive from about Job Seekers Allowance you should contact your local Jobs and Benefits office directly. If you suspect you have received a fraudulent message as a scam, please contact your local Jobs and Benefits office immediately.

  • Further information is available at: scamwiseni

European Economic Area (EEA) and returning UK Nationals 

If you are from the EEA or a UK national returning from living or working outside the UK, you may be able to claim income-based JSA if you can prove you’ve been living in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland for at least three months before you claim.

If you are resident as a 'jobseeker', you can get income-based JSA for up to six months. You will have to go to a Genuine Prospect of Work assessment once you have been getting JSA for three months.

If you cannot prove you have a good chance of finding work, your JSA will stop. If you show you have the chance of work, you may be able to get JSA for up to another three months.

If you are resident as a 'retained worker' you may be able to get income-based JSA for up to nine months.

Some people, registered as unemployed in the country they are originally from, can register as a jobseeker in the UK as long as they can show a completed form from that country. They may be paid unemployment benefit directly from their own country for up to six months at the same rate they would receive if living there.

Payments and rates

In most cases you will not get any money for the first seven days of your claim. These are called 'waiting days'.

JSA is paid once a fortnight into your bank or building society account. 

If you get an occupational or personal pension, it may affect the amount of benefit you get.

Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance

The maximum weekly rates are:

Age  Amount
Aged 16 - 24 £57.90
Aged 25 or over  £73.10

Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

The maximum weekly rates are:

Type of person  Amount
Single people, aged under 25 £57.90
Single people, aged 25 or over £73.10
Couples and civil partnerships (both aged 18 or over) £114.85
Lone parents (aged under 18)  £57.90
Lone parents (aged 18 or over) £73.10

For income-based JSA, the amount may be less after your household income, pension and savings are taken into account.

'New style' Jobseeker's Allowance

The maximum weekly rates are:

Age Amount
Aged 18 - 24 £57.90
Aged 25 and over £73.10

Premiums for people with children, carers and pensioners

Premiums are special additions in the calculation of JSA. They recognise that special groups of customers have extra needs. 

Premiums for people with children

New claims for income-based Jobseeker's Allowance will not include payments for children. This is because Child Tax Credit will provide money for children.

Family Premium

Family premium is paid to claimants with dependant children or young people. It is awarded with the Child Tax Credit Assessment.

Disabled Child Premium

If you are responsible for a child or young person under the age of 20, you will get this premium if:

  • the dependant is receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • the dependant is no longer receiving DLA or PIP because of admission to hospital
  • the dependant is certified blind or was certified as blind up to 28 weeks before the claim was made

It can be awarded in addition to other premiums and can be paid for each child that is eligible.

You won't get Disabled Child Premium if the child or young person has capital of more than £3,000.

Carer Premium

You may get this premium if you or your partner:

  • get Carer's Allowance
  • have claimed Carer's Allowance but could not be paid it because you already had another higher benefit

The Carer Premium:

  • can be awarded in addition to other premiums
  • can be paid to both you and your partner
  • can be paid for a further eight weeks after the Carer's Allowance stops

Pensioner Premiums

There are three types of premiums if you have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit. You will automatically get the one which pays the most.

Pensioner Premium

You may get this premium if your partner is Pension Credit age or over.

Enhanced Pensioner Premium

You may get this premium if your partner has reached 75 and does not qualify for the higher pensioner premium.

The Higher Pensioner Premium

Higher pensioner premium is paid at two rates. A lower rate is for single claimants or lone parents who are over Pension Credit age. A higher rate is for claimants who are members of a couple.

Rates of Jobseeker's Allowance (income-based) premiums

Premium Amount
Family  £17.45 
Disabled child  £60.90 


Premiums for people with long-term illness or disability

Premiums are special additions in the calculation of JSA. They recognise that special groups of customers have extra needs. 

Disability Premium

Disability Premium is paid at a lower and a higher rate.

Lower rate

The lower rate Disability Premium is paid if you are single or a lone parent under Pension Credit age and one of the following applies:

  • you are certified as severely sight impaired or blind by a consultant ophthalmologist
  • you receive Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • you receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (or any concessionary payments to compensate for not getting PIP)
  • you receive Mobility Supplement
  • you receive Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • you receive payment through the invalid vehicle scheme
  • you receive Motability Scheme payments when the mobility component of the DLA or PIP is being paid directly to Motability Finance Ltd
  • you have an invalid vehicle
  • you receive the Disability element or Severe Disability element of Working Tax Credit.

Higher rate

The higher rate Disability Premium is paid if you are a member of a couple or a joint claim. You both must be under Pension Credit age and:

  • you must meet any of the conditions for lower rate Disability Premium, or
  • your partner must receive any of the following benefits or concessionary payments to compensate for these benefits not being paid: Severe Disability Allowance, Incapacity Benefit (long term or paid at long term rate), Attendance Allowance, Armed Forces Independence Payment, DLA or PIP which has stopped only because they (or either one of you if it is a joint claim), have been in hospital for more than 28 days and Disability Premium was awarded immediately before that benefit stopped

Enhanced Disability Premium

This may be paid to people receiving income-based JSA who also receive either:

  • DLA higher rate care component
  • PIP enhanced rate daily living component

It is paid in addition to Disability Premium, at either a single rate or a couple rate.

Single rate

You get the single rate if you are: 

  • single
  • under Pension Credit age
  • receiving DLA higher rate care component
  • receiving PIP enhanced rate daily living component

Couple rate

You get the couple rate if:

  • both you and your partner are under Pension Credit age
  • you or your partner receive the DLA higher rate care component or PIP enhanced rate daily living component

Severe Disability Premium

If you are single

If you are single you may get the lower rate Severe Disability Premium if you live alone, Carer's Allowance isn't paid and one of the following applies:

  • you receive DLA care component at the highest or middle rate
  • you receive PIP daily living at the standard or enhanced rate
  • you receive Armed Forces Independence Payment


If you have a partner, you are entitled to the lower rate of Severe Disability Premium if you (as a couple) live alone or are treated as living alone, Carer’s Allowance is being paid to a carer for one of you and one of the following applies:

  • you both receive a DLA care component at the higher or middle rate 
  • you both receive Attendance Allowance
  • you both receive PIP daily living at the standard or enhanced rate
  • you both receive Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • your partner does not receive the benefits listed above but is blind or is treated as blind

You may qualify for higher rate Severe Disability Premium if Carer's Allowance isn't paid and both of you receive one of the following:

  • the middle or higher rate of DLA care component
  • the enhanced or standard rate of the daily living component of PIP
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance

Rates of Jobseeker's Allowance (income-based) Premiums

Premium Amount
Disability – single £33.55 
Disability – couple £47.80 
Enhanced disability single rate £16.40 
Enhanced disability couple rate £23.55 
Enhanced disabled child rate £25.48 
Severe disability - lower (single) £64.30 
Severe disability - couple (lower rate) £64.30 
Severe disability - couple (higher rate) £128.60 

Share fishermen

You're a 'share fisherman’ if you work in the fishing industry and are paid a share of the earnings or profit of the boat.

Contribution-based JSA

As a share fisherman you are classed as self-employed, although the special Class 2 contributions you pay allow you to meet the conditions for receiving contribution-based JSA.

Special rules mean share fishermen don't have to meet some of the usual JSA requirements, that is: 

  • work done as a share fisherman is not taken into account when calculating the number of hours of paid work
  • earnings from share fishing are taken into account when they are earned, not when they are received
  • earnings from share fishing are not averaged
  • you can earn up to £20.00 before JSA is affected 

Income-based JSA

If you're a share fisherman who receives income-based JSA, you are subject to all the standard rules which apply to self-employed people.

You must also prove you have accepted all reasonable opportunities to work as a share fisherman during the benefit week. If you can't prove this, even if it is just for part of one day, you won't be paid JSA for the whole of that benefit week.

You can earn up to the following amounts weekly without a penalty:

  • £5.00 if you are single
  • £10.00 if you have a partner or joint claim
  • £20.00 if you are a lone parents, have a disability, are a carer or have a partner over State Pension age receiving the Higher Pension Premium

Going abroad on holiday

If you go abroad on holiday (Republic of Ireland included) you need to complete your JS40 booklet and close your Jobseeker’s Allowance claim.  You will then need to contact your local office as soon as you return home if you still wish to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

If you think the decision is wrong

If the Jobs and Benefits office decides that you can't get Jobseeker's Allowance and you think the decision is wrong you can appeal.

Changes in your circumstances

You must tell the Jobs and Benefits office as soon as possible about any changes in your circumstances, as it may affect your benefit.

Find out more about Jobseeker's allowance

For more information contact your local Jobs and Benefits office.

Help with housing costs

If you receive JSA and have a mortgage, remortgage or home loan, you may be able to get a loan to help towards the interest payments. 

More useful links

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