When you are out of work, the government will provide financial support to you and your family and one of the ways in which they do this is with Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). This is a benefit that is designed to help those who have a willingness to work but are unable to find employment for one reason or another.
There are two types of JSA available, but you may or may not be eligible for them both depending on your situation. If you have been in work recently and have paid enough National Insurance contributions for two years or more, the state will provide you with a contributions-based payment for up to 182 days.
Regardless of your eligibility for the above, you could be entitled to claim an income-based allowance. The amount you receive is determined by your level of income and savings. So if you have lots of savings and/or have earnings such as interest or capital gains, it is possible for you to not receive a penny.
Can I Get Jobseeker’s Allowance?
Other than your contributions and income/savings as discussed above, to be eligible for JSA you must meet the following criteria:
- you must be able to work and be available to take up employment at the present time
- you must make a concerted effort to look for work at every available opportunity
- you must reside permanently in Great Britain
- you must sign a Jobseeker’s Agreement (see below)
- you must be over 18 years of age but under the State Pension age
- you must not be in relevant education
What Does Signing On Mean?
To earn the right to receive Jobseeker’s Allowance, you will be required to sign a Jobseeker’s Agreement. This is a document that sets out what your responsibilities are as someone who is looking for work. This could include details about your level of required activity when seeking employment (i.e. the number of jobs applied for) or your duty to attend a training course.
You will also have to attend the Jobcentre Plus when asked to or at regular intervals depending on what is agreed initially. During these visits (normally every 1 to 2 weeks), you’ll have to show evidence of what you have done since the previous meeting and sign a declaration indicating that you are still willing to take work at the present time.
If you do not attend a scheduled appointment with your Jobcentre representative then you risk losing your benefits.
How Soon Must I Be Ready To Work?
For the majority of people, you should be able to start work immediately if an offer of employment is made. There are, however, circumstances where this is extended slightly and these are:
- you are on community service – you’ll need to be ready within 24 hours
- you work in the voluntary sector – you must be ready to work within a week, but should also be prepared to attend interviews at 48 hours notice
- you care for someone full time – you’ll be given one week to prepare, but should be prepared for job interviews at 48 hours notice
- you work part time already – you should be prepared to start immediately after any legal notice period is served
What Might Affect My Ability To Claim JSA?
There are some instances where your Jobseeker’s Allowance payments might be stopped or where you might not be entitled to them in the first place. This list includes:
- you left your previous job without good reason to do so – Jobcentre Plus will make a decision on whether you were justified in leaving based upon what you’ve told them and what your employer says about the situation
- you were sacked from your previous job – if it is deemed that this was due to your behaviour then you could face sanctions
- turning down a job offer without good reason
- not applying for a job that your adviser has instructed you to apply for
- not attending mandatory work activity programmes without good reason
- not coming to an interview with an adviser when requested
- you opt not to take part in an employment programme or training scheme you have been referred to
If you are unsure of anything, then we always recommend that you speak to a member of staff at the Jobcentre Plus to clarify whether or not you could face a benefit sanction.
Note: even if you have your JSA stopped, you might still be eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance hardship payments if you are deemed to be vulnerable or are responsible for someone who is vulnerable.
Claiming As A Couple
If both you and your partner are out of work, you will be required to sign on as a couple. This joint claim is to ensure that all members of a household who can work get the help they require.
You will be considered as a couple if you are cohabiting with your wife, husband or civil partner, or living with someone as if they were one of the former (a long term partner for instance).
A joint claim should be made when you are a couple who live together, one is over the age of 18, both are under the state pension age, and neither of you have dependent children.
What If I’m 16 Or 17 And No Longer In Education?
It is not standard practice for people under the age of 18 to receive Jobseeker’s Allowance, but there are some circumstances where it may be deemed necessary. If you are forced to live apart from your parents, if you have a partner and are responsible for a dependent child, and if you will find it very hard to live without JSA.
What If I’m Taking Part In A Training Course?
Assuming you are ready to take work when it comes your way and that you are actively seeking employment during the same period as your training, you might be eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance payments.
If you do get a job offer then you must be prepared to either adjust the times when you study for the course or be prepared to give up the course to take on full time work.
My Working Hours Have Been Cut Or I’ve Been Laid Off
If your employer has cut the amount of hours that you are due to work or you have been laid off on certain days of the week, then you may be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Even when you are still under contract with your current employer, you can reasonably claim JSA if you are:
- working fewer than 16 hours in a week
- earning less than the government’s stated level for the minimum liveable wage
- prepared to start your current job full time once again
- prepared to make up the hours you work to 40 per week by taking casual jobs
When Do I Need To Inform The Jobcentre Plus About Changes To My Circumstances?
There are many reasons why you would be expected to contact your Jobcentre Plus adviser and these include:
- starting a new job or training course of any sort
- move home
- starting to receive a pension
- starting to live with someone as a couple
- receiving another benefit of any sort
- changes to your level of savings
- getting married or divorced
- getting ill
- having children who leave school
- becoming a carer for someone
This concludes our explanation of Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you have any further questions then we advise you to contact your local Jobcentre Plus office.