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Department for Work and Pensions

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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.

Employment and Support Allowance in another EEA country

If you live in another EEA country, you can continue to receive contribution-based ESA as long as you satisfy the National Insurance requirements in Great Britain and other conditions for claiming ESA.

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. For more information and contact details see Directgov.

ESA in social security agreement countries

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

ESA when you come to the UK

Contribution-based

If you have paid enough National Insurance contributions, you may be able to claim contribution-based ESA. For persons from the EEA, if you claim contribution-based ESA 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.

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.