Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

What Is the 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.

Key Takeaways

  • The Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is an unemployment benefit available to certain unemployed citizens in the U.K. who are looking for work. 
  • Recipients seeking the JSA must prove that they are actively seeking work and are willing to take any job that pays a reasonable wage.
  • Individuals applying must be allowed to live and work in the U.K. and generally be at least 18 (with some exceptions).
  • Applicants must either be unemployed or not working more than 16 hours a week; they cannot be full-time students.

Understanding the 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 JSA

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 15 weeks.

In 1921, the government introduced the "seeking work" test as a condition to receive 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 the 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.

JSA Calculator

A Jobseeker's Allowance Calculator is available on the UK Government website.

Special Considerations

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 do 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.

Article Sources
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  1. U.K. Government. "Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) - Your JSA claim."

  2. The National Archives. "Insurance introduced."

  3. U.K. Government. "Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) - Eligibility."