What is Jobseeker's Allowance?
Credit: 1000 Words – Shutterstock
Confusingly, there are three different types of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA):
- Contribution-based JSA
- Income-based JSA
- New style JSA.
What's more, along with contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance, you can only apply for income-based JSA if you receive the severe disability premium, or have received it within the last month and are still eligible for it.
Crucially, no matter which type of JSA you claim, the amount you receive will be the same.
However, as the majority of applicants will only be eligible for new style JSA, that's what we'll focus on in this guide. If you think you may be eligible to receive income- or contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance, more information is available on the government's website.
Who is eligible for new style Jobseeker's Allowance?Credit: everydayplus – Shutterstock
The eligibility criteria for new style Jobseeker's Allowance is a lot more straightforward than it is for Universal Credit. You should be eligible to claim new style Jobseeker's Allowance if you:
- Are aged over 18, but under the State Pension age (although there are some exceptions for those aged 16 or 17)
- Live in England, Scotland or Wales and have the right to work in the UK
- Are unemployed or working less than 16 hours per week (on average)
- Aren't in full-time education
- Are available to work full-time, and are taking measures to find a job
- Don't have a disability or illness which stops you from working (other benefits, including the other types of JSA, are available if you have such an illness or disability)
- Have worked and paid Class 1 National Insurance in the last two to three years.
But how do you know if you've paid Class 1 National Insurance? Good question.
Any employee earning more than £183 a week will automatically pay Class 1 National Insurance, although this threshold often changes when we enter a new tax year (which runs from April – April). Use this table of weekly thresholds to see what the figure was when you were working (you'll want to look at the row labelled 'Primary Threshold').
Our student tax guide explains how much you should be paying while you're at uni – if any. And remember: JSA is a taxable benefit.
Can students claim new style Jobseeker's Allowance?Credit: Atanas Bezov - Shutterstock
As the list of criteria above suggests, the vast majority of full-time students won't be eligible for new style Jobseeker's Allowance. There are a few limited exceptions to this, though, including if you are:
- A lone parent
- In a couple, where both of you are full-time students, you have a child together, and you're claiming JSA during your summer holidays
- Taking time out from study, particularly if it's due to ill health or needing to care for someone else.
Part-time students should have a little more luck in applying for new style JSA, however it's important to remember that you will need to be willing and able to work full-time.
This means that, if you're offered a full-time job that clashes with your part-time degree, you may have to choose between accepting the job and continuing with your studies. If you decide to stick with uni, the fact that you turned down work may mean you become ineligible to claim JSA.
Can graduates claim new style Jobseeker's Allowance?As with Universal Credit, graduates should be eligible to claim Jobseeker's Allowance as long as they meet all of the standard criteria that apply to all prospective claimants. And again, in this instance you're no longer considered a student after the final day of the last academic year of your course.
The main stumbling block is likely to be how much Class 1 National Insurance you've paid in the last two to three years.
If you're a recent graduate and you worked during uni, you should hopefully be eligible to claim JSA – but if you didn't have a job while you were studying, you'll probably be rejected for JSA and you'll need to apply for Universal Credit instead.
How much Jobseeker's Allowance will you get?
The exact amount of Jobseeker's Allowance that you'll receive will vary depending on your personal circumstances, such as whether or not you're working part-time.
The maximum amount of new style JSA you can claim is:
- £58.90 per week if you're aged 18–24
- £74.35 per week if you're aged 25 or over.
How is Jobseeker's Allowance paid?While the amount you receive is calculated on a weekly basis, Jobseeker's Allowance is actually paid directly to your bank account every two weeks.
How to apply for new style Jobseeker's Allowance
You can apply for new style Jobseeker's Allowance online (contact Jobcentre Plus if you're unable to do this) and, as is the case with Universal Credit applications, you'll need some information to hand when you do.
When you're applying for JSA, you'll need your:
- National Insurance number
- Bank details
- Employment details for the past six months (including dates and contact details for your employers).
The official advice states that your claim may be rejected unless you have a "good reason" for not applying sooner, with examples including the death of an immediate family member (i.e. a sibling, parent or child) or incorrectly being advised that you couldn't get JSA.
Finally, if you disagree with a decision that's made regarding your application for new style Jobseeker's Allowance, you can make an appeal.
Apply for new style JSA »
Should you claim Jobseeker's Allowance?As a type of benefit, there is still some stigma around claiming Jobseeker's Allowance. However, we'd encourage you to ignore this as much as possible and apply for JSA if you meet the eligibility criteria and need the cash.
We explained earlier how Universal Credit could prove to be the difference between finding work and staying unemployed, and while we're not talking about huge sums of money here, every little helps when you're struggling to make ends meet.
It is worth noting, however, that if you're eligible for both Jobseeker's Allowance and Universal Credit, the amount of JSA you claim will reduce your Universal Credit payments.
For every £1 of new style Jobseeker's Allowance you receive, your Universal Credit payment will reduce by £1 – so while you won't be any worse off for claiming both at the same time, you likely won't be any better off either.
If you're still studying, make sure you've claimed all of the bursaries, grants and scholarships available to you.