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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who have a limited capability for work because of a health condition or disability. ESA was introduced in October 2008 and replaces Incapacity Benefit and Income Support paid on incapacity grounds for new customers.

ESA has both a contribution-based and an income-based element. If you have paid enough National Insurance contributions, you can receive contribution-based ESA. Contribution-based ESA can be paid if you are in an EEA country. See the rules in this section.

If you do not qualify for contribution-based ESA, or it does not fully meet your needs, you may qualify for income-based ESA, depending on your income and capital. You must be in Great Britain to be eligible for income-related ESA. For temporary absences, see the rules in this section.

You can only claim income-related ESA if you are in Great Britain (this includes England, Scotland and Wales but not the Channel Islands, Northern Ireland, or the Isle of Man). If you are in Northern Ireland, you can claim ESA through the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency.

Temporary absences

If you are temporarily in another country, you can continue to receive either contribution-based or income-related ESA for the first four weeks of your absence, as long as you are unlikely to be away for more than 52 weeks.

If you are going abroad temporarily for medical treatment or to accompany a dependent child for their treatment, you may be able to continue receiving ESA for up to 26 weeks while you are away, as long as you are unlikely to be away for more than 52 weeks. The treatment must be directly related to a health condition which began before leaving Great Britain and you must seek permission before you go. If the treatment is for you, it must be for a condition directly related to your limited capability for work.

If you are going abroad temporarily to receive NHS treatment, you can still receive ESA if you continue to meet all the other conditions and you obtain specific permission before you leave.

Claiming ESA for a period of limited capability for work that commenced in another EEA country

You can claim ESA for a period of limited capability for work that commenced in another EEA country. If you are claiming contribution-based ESA, your case must be referred to the International Pension Centre to see whether European Community Regulations apply. More information and contact details for the International Pension Centre can be found on the Directgov website.

ESA in social security agreement countries

ESA does not come within any of the social security agreements with other countries.

Contribution-based ESA in EEA cases

If you are from, or going to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, different rules may apply. For further information contact The Pension Service(Directgov)

UK Contribution Based ESA (Assessment Rate) in another EEA country

If you are in another EEA country, but you were last insured under the UK scheme, you may be able to get UK Contribution Based ESA (Assessment Rate) anywhere in the EEA as long as you satisfy the rules and continue to be unfit for work.

If you are getting UK Contribution-based ESA (assessment rate) in the UK and you are going to another EEA country, you should check with your Jobcentre Plus office well before you leave. They will be able to tell you if going abroad will affect your benefit. The section Medical services also provides more information about healthcare, which may help you sort things out in good time.

When your period of UK Contribution Based ESA (Assessment Rate ) runs out, you may then be able to get UK Contribution Based ESA (Main Phase).

Benefit for short-term sickness from another EEA country

If you have been working in another EEA country, you may have become insured for sickness since the last time you went there. If you have, and you claim benefit under that country's scheme, your UK insurance may help you to get it. The authorities there will ask the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for details of your UK insurance record.

The HMRC NI Contributions Office will send on to them form E104. They will usually need to get in touch with the employer you used to work for in the UK before they can send form E104. The authorities who run the foreign sickness scheme will decide your claim using their own rules.

If you have worked and become insured in another EEA country, and you then fall sick, you may wish to come back to the UK. If this happens, you may get the other country's sickness benefit in the UK. But you should claim the benefit before you come back to the UK.

ESA when you come to the UK

UK Contribution Based ESA (Assessment Rate) when you come to the UK

If you are insured under the UK scheme and you fall sick while you are working for your employer, you can usually get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). But if, for any reason, you cannot get SSP in the UK, you may get UK Contribution Based ESA (Assessment Rate ) instead.

If you claim UK Contribution Based ESA (Assessment Rate ) in this country, the sickness insurance you paid in another EEA country may be used to help you get UK benefit. But only if you have worked and paid insurance contributions under the UK scheme as an employed or self-employed person since the last time you arrived in the UK.

When you make your claim to the UK details of foreign insurance will be requested from the other Member State you worked in if necessary

Note that you cannot usually get benefit from more than one country for one lot of sickness.

If you have not paid any UK NI contributions since you last arrived in the UK, you may still get, Contribution Based ESA (Assessment Rate) but only if you:

For further information, contact the International Pension Centre.

Income-related ESA

If you have not paid enough National Insurance contributions, you may be able to claim income-related ESA, depending on your income and capital. You must satisfy the habitual residence test by being habitually resident and having a right to reside in the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland.

EEA nationals who work in the UK and their family members are exempt from the habitual residence test, but their work must be registered with the Home Office Worker Registration Scheme if they are nationals of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia or the Slovak Republic. Nationals of Bulgaria or Romania are either subject to the Worker Authorisation Scheme or must hold a registration certificate.

UK Contribution Based ESA (Main Phase)

If you have been insured for sickness in the UK only, you may be able to get UK Contribution Based  ESA ( Main Phase) anywhere you live or stay in the EEA as long as you satisfy the rules and continue to be unfit for work.

If you have been insured in the UK and in another EEA country, the benefit you can get depends on which other country or countries you have been insured in. This is because there are different rules for working out your benefit.

Benefit for long-term sickness from another EEA country

If you have been insured in the UK and also in any of the following countries:

only one of them will pay you benefit. This is usually the country in which you were last insured when your sickness began. If you were last insured in the UK, you will get full rate Contribution Based ESA( Main Phase) if you satisfy the rules.

If you were last insured in one of the above countries, you will get that country's invalidity benefit. Previous periods of UK insurance may help you to satisfy the rules of the country from which you claim your benefit.

Benefit for long-term sickness from more than one EEA country

If you have been insured at any time in the UK and also in any of the following countries:

you may be able to get UK Contribution Based  ESA ( Main Phase)and also an invalidity benefit from each of the other countries where you were insured.

Each country where you have been insured will work out how much of their benefit they can pay you. Different rules apply to any extra you may get for an adult and child(ren) who depend on you. See the State Pension in EEA countries section for more information. If you are getting benefit from only one of the countries where you were insured, ask the authorities that pay your benefit to send your claim to the other country or countries where you were insured. They will then consider whether they can pay you their benefit.