Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) Explained

ESA is a type of sick-pay originally aimed at helping people who cannot work due to an illness or disability. In the recent budget, the government announced that they will extend ESA to give financial support to the self-employed during the Coronavirus crisis.

That’s is because when you are self-employed you are not eligible to claim statutory sick pay, like someone who is employed would do. So if you are a sole trader and forced to take time off work due to self-isolating, you could be eligible for ESA.

Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)

Under the new style ESA for the self-employed, you will be eligible to claim from the first day of needing to self-isolate, instead of the usual eighth day.

That means you should expect your first ESA self-employed payment around two weeks after you contract Coronavirus.

ESA is currently:

  • £73.10 a week for over 25s
  • £57.90 a week for under 25s

So depending on your circumstances, this may not be enough to bridge the gap if your income has totally dried up.

That being said if you’re facing a situation where your income is going down, then I advise you take advantage of all the income support you can. And don’t feel ashamed to ask for help. This is exactly the reason why we pay national insurance contributions.

How to Claim the Employment Support Allowance

To get ‘new style’ ESA you need to have been self-employed and paid enough National Insurance in the last 2 tax years:

  • 2017/2018
  • 2018/2019

You’ll also need to call 111 so the NHS can issue you with a letter confirming that you are self-isolating.

That means you needed to have kept up with your class 2 national insurance payments and paid them voluntarily, even if your business profits were below the threshold (something I have been urging my readers to do for years now).

Head over to the government website to check your eligibility or call the ESA helpline on 0800 169 0154

When Will You Receive Your Allowance

The government are promising that you will receive the money quickly. If this is your first claim for ESA you will receive the money immediately, as long as you have all the information you need to hand.

And even if it turns out you weren’t eligible you won’t have to pay it back.


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Anita Forrest
About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek, money nerd and creator of www.goselfemployed.co - the UK small business finance blog for the self-employed community. Here she shares simple, straight-forward guides to make self-employment topics like taxes, bookkeeping and banking easy to understand.