Universal Credit if you're self-employed
If you are self-employed you may be able to claim Universal Credit
If you are self-employed and want to claim Universal Credit, you will attend a Gateway Interview where a 'gainfully self-employed test' will be carried out. This involves checking whether your self-employment is:
- organised, developed and regular
- expected to make a profit
- your main job
If you are self-employed and also employed, a decision will be taken to decide which is your main job.
You will need to go to an interview at your local Jobs & Benefits Office and provide evidence of your self-employment (for example, your business plan, copies of invoices and receipts, or your accounts from the previous year).
If the decision is made that you are not gainfully self-employed, you may need to look for, and be available for other work. You will still need to report any earnings from your self-employment so they can be taken into account when calculating your Universal Credit payments.
As part of your claim you will need to accept a ‘Commitment’ which you will agree with your work coach.
Your Commitment sets out the things you need to do to prepare for work, look for work or increase your earnings (where appropriate).
You will regularly discuss and update your Commitment with your work coach, and you will need to agree to the Commitment each time to keep getting Universal Credit.
The actions set out in your Commitment will depend on things like your health, your responsibilities at home and how much help you need to increase your income.
How Universal Credit is worked out if you are self-employed
Payments made through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be treated as earnings in Universal Credit. This means payments will be taken into account in the Assessment Period in which they are received. In this way Universal Credit provides support as your earnings change.
To work out your Universal Credit payments, it will be assumed you earn at least the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ even if your actual earnings fall below it.
Minimum Income Floor
The rules for self-employed people claiming Universal Credit were temporarily different because of the coronavirus pandemic.
From 1 August 2021, this has changed and the pre-pandemic rules are being applied again.
This means that a check will be undertaken to see if you are gainfully self-employed. If so, your payment will be calculated using the Minimum Income Floor.
Discretion will be used when applying the Minimum Income Floor for self-employed people who continue to be impacted by the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic.
You may be eligible for a start-up period. If you were in a start-up period on 13 March 2020, your start-up period will be extended.
If you already have a claim, you will be contacted about these changes before they happen.
The Minimum Income Floor is the minimum amount of earnings you would be expected to earn in an Assessment Period. This is based on the lowest amount an employed person with similar circumstances could be expected to earn in an Assessment Period.
If you earn more than the Minimum Income Floor you will get less Universal Credit.
The Minimum Income Floor will not apply for a ‘start-up period’ of up to one year. During this time, Universal Credit will use your actual earnings to work out the amount you are entitled to.
The Minimum Income Floor won't apply to you if you:
- are not considered gainfully self-employed
- are in a start-up period
- are in:
- the no work-related requirements group
- the work focused interview group
- the work preparation group
Your work coach will be able to tell you if you are in one of these groups.
If the Minimum Income Floor doesn't apply to you, your Universal Credit payments will be based on your actual income.
You can earn a certain amount before your Universal Credit payments are reduced, if you or your partner:
- are responsible for a child or young person
- have a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work
This is called a ‘Work Allowance’. You will keep 45p of every £1 you earn above your work allowance. Your work allowance will be lower if your Universal Credit payment includes help with housing costs.
|Your Circumstances||Work Allowance|
|You get help with housing costs||£344 per month|
|You don't get help with housing costs||£573 per month|
For example, if you have a disability or you are living in temporary supported accommodation and you do not receive help or support with your housing costs from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, your Work Allowance will be £573. This means you can earn £573 before your Universal Credit payments start to be reduced.
Self-employment information you need to give to get Universal Credit.
Every month you must tell us:
- all payments you received (Do not include amounts you have charged but have not yet received) in the Assessment Period
- your permitted expenses, income tax, National Insurance contributions and any pension contributions that qualify for tax relief
Permitted expenses are expenses that are:
- appropriate to the business
- necessary to the business
- not excessive
Your work coach can give you more information about permitted expenses.
If your expenses for an assessment period are unusually high, you can’t offset them against your income in future assessment periods. This applies even if your expenses for the month are higher than your receipts.
If your business makes a loss in an assessment period, Universal Credit will take this into account when working out earnings in future assessment periods. The minimum income floor will continue to apply.
If your business is new
If you’re classed as newly gainfully self-employed you may be considered to be in a ‘start-up period’.
A start-up period is available if you are taking active steps to increase your earnings, and have not had a previous Start-up Period in the last 5 years. If it is over 5 years ago, the self-employed work must be a new business activity.
The Start-up Period applies for 12 months, and is applied from the beginning of the assessment period in which the gainfully self- employed decision is made.
During a start-up period, if your earnings are low you will not have to look for other paid work. However, you will have to go to an interview with your work coach every three months to prove you are still gainfully self-employed and taking steps to increase your earnings.