Claiming new style ESA

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

You’ll need to show that your medical condition makes it difficult to work – this is called 'limited capability for work'. 

If you haven’t already, you should get a fit note from a healthcare professional who’s treating you.

Getting a fit note

You can get a fit note from the following healthcare professionals:

  • your GP or a doctor at a hospital

  • a registered nurse

  • a pharmacist

  • an occupational therapist

  • a physiotherapist

Your fit note will be either printed or digital. If you’re not sure which kind you’ll get and how you’ll get it, check with the healthcare professional.

If you get a printed fit note, check that the healthcare professional has signed it.

If you get a digital fit note, check that it includes the healthcare professional’s name.

If the healthcare professional hasn't either signed your fit note or included their name, it could be rejected by the DWP and you might have to get a new one.

Your fit note is free if you’ve been ill for more than 7 days when you ask for it. You might have to pay for it if you’ve been ill for 7 days or less.

You should always keep your fit note - you might have to pay for a replacement if you lose or delete it. You can give the DWP a copy or take a photo of it to upload online.

If you can't get a fit note, talk to an adviser.

If the DWP accepts your ESA claim

You’ll usually get your first ESA payment a few weeks after you apply.

You can check how much ESA you’ll get.

The DWP will usually pay up to 3 months ESA to cover time when you had limited capability for work before you applied. This is called 'backdating'.

You won’t usually get ESA to cover the first 7 days you had limited capability for work. These are called ‘waiting days’.

If you live with a partner

Your partner has no effect on the amount of ESA you’ll get.

If you and your partner can both claim new style ESA, you should make separate claims.

If you’re getting sick pay from your employer

If you’re employed but you can’t work, you’ll usually get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer for 28 weeks – check if you should get SSP.

You can only get ESA when your SSP ends, but you can claim in advance up to 3 months before your SSP ends. You’ll need to ask your employer to fill in form SSP1 – download the form from GOV.UK.

Your employer might also pay you their own sick pay - usually called ‘contractual sick pay’ (CSP). Getting CSP won’t affect your ESA claim.

Apply for new style ESA

Because of coronavirus, you have to apply for new style ESA online or by phone.

You’ll need to do this even if you’re on Universal Credit. You can’t apply for ESA through your Universal Credit online account anymore. 

You can apply online for new style ESA on GOV.UK. You’ll be asked some questions first to make sure you’re eligible. If you are, you’ll be asked to fill in an online form. 

When you apply you’ll need:

When the form asks what date you want to claim ESA from, put the date when you first had limited capability for work. You’ll need to give the DWP a fit note from that date.

You’ll need to apply by phone if you’re an ‘appointee’ which means you’re applying on behalf of someone else. If you can’t use online forms you can also apply over the phone. Call the Jobcentre Plus new claims helpline - select the option for new style ESA.

When you call the DWP they might tell you to claim Universal Credit too - you don’t need to do this to claim new style ESA. If you want to understand what benefits you can get before you call the DWP you can use a benefits calculator.

Don’t feel pressured by the DWP into applying for something you’re not sure about - if you don’t want to claim Universal Credit tell them you only want to claim new style ESA.

Jobcentre Plus claim lines

Telephone: 0800 055 6688 

Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 055 6688

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).  

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

After you've applied

The DWP will contact you by phone or letter to tell you what will happen next. You might be asked to go to a face-to-face interview at the Jobcentre Plus. Call the Jobcentre Plus if you’re worried about going to an interview in person. The number will be on the interview invitation - or you can look up their contact details on GOV.UK. 

Check the end date on your fit note. Before the end date, get a new fit note if you need to. You’ll need to keep giving the DWP fit notes until they have fully assessed you.

If your claim is accepted, at some point in the next few months the DWP might ask you to complete a form called the ‘capability for work questionnaire’ or ‘ESA50’. You’ll need to complete this to keep getting ESA – check how to complete the ESA50 form.

If the DWP refuse your claim

The DWP should tell you why your claim was refused. If you think the decision is wrong, you can challenge the decision.

Page last reviewed on 07 April 2020