Working Hours for Benefits


If you are doing paid work for an employer or are self-employed but on a low income, you might still qualify for certain welfare benefits. Some benefit entitlement will depend on how many hours of paid work you do per week.

New claimants with a working income will be required to apply for universal credit. There are special rules around self-employment income for universal credit.

Employment and Support Allowance

You normally can't do any work while claiming Employment and Support Allowance. However, you can do what's known as 'permitted work' and remain entitled to incapacity-based benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance.

If you claim Income-related ESA your partner can work up to 24 hours doing any type of paid work but their earnings could affect the amount you are entitled to. However, your partner's work hours will not affect your entitlement to Contributory Employment Support Allowance, which is based on your national insurance contribution record.

Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance

For Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), you are classed as working full time (and therefore not eligible for the benefit) if you do 16 hours or more paid work per week. Your partner is allowed to do paid work of up to 24 hours per week.

If you are working less than 16 hours per week, and your partner is working less than 24 hours per week, then you may be eligible to claim these benefits but the amount you are entitled to could be affected by any earnings you have.

Working Tax Credit

If you or your partner worked too many hours to be eligible for IS or JSA you may have been eligible to claim Working Tax Credit instead. To get Working Tax Credit, you and/or your partner must work at least a certain number of hours per week:

  • If you are single and responsible for a child, qualify for the disability element of Working Tax Credit, or are over 60 year's old, you must work at least 16 hours per week

  • If you are a couple and responsible for a child you must, in most cases, work at least 24 hours between you (with one of you working at least 16 hours)

  • Otherwise, you must be aged 25 or over and work at least 30 hours a week.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is paid to people in or out of work, and you (or your partner) can work any number of hours and still qualify. However if your hours increase, your universal credit may reduce, and if your income reduces, your universal credit may increase. It is important to update your universal credit journal with any income changes. The income rules are slightly different for self-employed claimants - see Minimum Income Floor below.

Calculating Paid Work Hours

How your average hours of work are calculated depends on the type of work you do, whether your hours are fixed or variable, and which benefit you are claiming.

It is important to count all the hours you do; if you do more than one job add them together.

Check the following section to whichever fits your situation:

If you are still unsure how many hours you work you should contact the relevant benefits department for advice when making your claim.