What Is Jobseeker's Allowance? (JSA)

The Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is a benefit for unemployed individuals in the U.K. who are actively seeking work. The allowance is intended to help minimize the cost of living for those seeking full-time employment. The benefit may also be available to people who work less than 16 hours per week.

Understanding Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

The Jobseeker's Allowance is a conditions-based benefit, meaning recipients must meet certain conditions in order to retain eligibility for payments. The main requirement for receiving the JSA is the recipient must provide proof on an ongoing basis that they are actively looking for employment. This condition was introduced to prevent unemployment benefits from becoming too easily available and accessible.

Precursors to the Jobseeker’s Allowance

The first unemployment benefits in the U.K were paid in 1911 with the passage of the National Insurance Act. The act covered 2.5 million workers and payments were intended as a supplement to other sources of income.

High unemployment rates following the end of World War I led to the creation of the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920. This provided weekly unemployment benefits for a period of 15 weeks.

In 1921, the government introduced the "seeking work" test as a condition to receiving benefits. The test required recipients to show they were genuinely seeking employment and willing to accept any job paying a reasonable wage. Unemployment benefits have continued to evolve over the years, leading to the Jobseeker's Allowance.

Eligibility for JSA

The Jobseeker's Allowance is available to an individual who has the right to work in the U.K. and lives in England, Scotland or Wales. They must be under the state pension age but older than 18 (although some 16- or 17-year-old workers may qualify). They must be available for work, not a full-time student, and not be working more than 16 hours per week.

The JSA recipient must "sign-on" at Jobcentre Plus every two weeks, allowing the Jobcentre to assess whether sufficient efforts are being made to secure employment. Benefits may be stopped if the Jobcentre determines the claimant is not fulfilling their job-seeking obligations, is failing to attend interviews, or is turning down offers of employment or training.

There are three types of Jobseeker's Allowance: 'new style' JSA, contribution-based JSA and income-based JSA. Individuals who've worked for two to three years and have paid Class 1 National Insurance Contributions are eligible for the 'new style' JSA. Payments last for six months and the income and savings of the recipient's partner does not impact their benefits.

The contribution-based JSA is available for those who receive or who are entitled to receive severe disability premiums. In addition, they must have also paid Class 1 National Insurance Contributions over the past two to three years.

The income-based JSA is for those who receive or who are entitled to receive severe disability premiums, but haven't worked over the past two to three years. The recipient must have £16,000 or less in savings (including the recipient's partner's savings). In addition, the claimant's partner cannot be working more than 24 hours per week.