What is permitted work?
If you are receiving benefits because of an illness or disability you may be able to do some types of work within certain limits, this is called 'permitted work'.
These are the most commonly asked questions about permitted work, what is permitted and what is not.
Can I work and claim disability benefits?
Disability living allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Attendance Allowance are payable whether or not you are working. They are not means tested, so earnings do not affect the amount of your benefit.
Starting a job may suggest that your care or mobility needs have changed, so your benefit entitlement could be reconsidered. It is possible that your care needs may actually increase if you move into work. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) views starting or leaving work as a potential ‘change of circumstances’ for DLA and PIP.
Am I allowed to do some permitted work?
If you are getting employment and support allowance (ESA), incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance (SDA), national insurance credits or income support because of incapacity for work, you are allowed to do some ‘permitted work’.
You have a choice of three permitted work options, depending on your circumstances:
- permitted work lower limit;
- permitted work higher limit; and
- supported permitted work.
Permitted work can include paid employment or self-employment.
You do not need the permission of a doctor to do permitted work, but you should tell the DWP if you are working.
If you are self employed you will need to seek advice about how your earnings are calculated.
What is the permitted work lower limit?
The permitted work lower limit allows you to earn up to £20 a week for an unlimited period. This is useful if you are on income support because any earnings over £20 will be deducted from your benefit.
What is the permitted work higher limit?
The permitted work higher limit allows you to earn up to £115.50 a week, after tax and national insurance deductions, without affecting your benefit, if you are getting employment and support allowance (ESA), incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance (SDA) or national insurance credits because of incapacity for work. The work must be for less than 16 hours a week. The earnings limit is normally increased each October.
You can normally only do permitted work on the higher limit for up to 52 weeks. You may, however, do it without a time limit if you are on ESA and have been placed in the ‘support group’.
If you have a break in your claim of more than eight weeks (or 12 weeks for ESA), you can repeat the 52-week period of permitted work higher limit. Otherwise, you can do further permitted work on the higher limit only after a gap of more than 52 weeks since you last did it.
What is supported permitted work?
Supported permitted work is work where you are supervised by someone who is employed by a public or local authority or community or voluntary group which provides or finds work for people with disabilities.
It can also be work which is part of a treatment programme under medical supervision while you are an in-patient or regularly attending as an out-patient of a hospital or similar institution.
Supported permitted work has no restriction on the hours you work and can be for an unlimited period. You can earn up to £115.50 a week after tax and national insurance deductions, without affecting your benefit, if you are getting employment and support allowance (ESA), incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance (SDA) or national insurance credits because of incapacity for work.
How does permitted work and universal credit work?
There is no ‘permitted work’ under universal credit. Instead you will be encouraged to do some work, even if only for a few hours a week, if you can manage it. There is no time limit to how many weeks you can work. It may be possible for some of your earnings to be disregarded when your Universal Credit is calculated.
Does permitted work affect housing benefit claims?
If you are getting employment support allowance, incapacity benefit, severe disability allowance any permitted work you receive is disregarded. If you are getting income support your permitted work is limited to £20 a week before your housing benefit is affected.
What other types of allowed work are there?
The following kinds of work are also allowed:
- care of a relative or domestic tasks carried out in your own home;
- work as a councillor. If you receive a councillor’s allowance that pays more than £115.50 a week, excluding expenses, the excess will be deducted from your contributory ESA, incapacity benefit or SDA;
- any activity in an emergency to protect another person or to prevent serious damage to property or livestock;
- duties undertaken as an appeal tribunal disability member – one day a week is allowed (or two half days);
- a DWP-approved unpaid work trial or work placement.
- self-employed work done whilst you are 'test trading' for up to 26 weeks with help from a self-employment provider arranged by the DWP;
- (for ESA only) duties undertaken fostering a child or providing respite care to someone who is not normally a member of your household, if you receive payment from a health body, voluntary organisation or local authority (or from the person placed with you by the local authority).
- a DWP-approved unpaid work trial or work placement; and
- work which is so minimal that it can be regarded as trivial or negligible.
Does voluntary work count as permitted work?
If you get incapacity benefit or SDA, you are allowed to do voluntary work for anyone other than a close relative. A ‘close relative’ is a parent (or in-law or step-parent), son/daughter (in-law/step), brother, sister or the partner of any of these.
If you get ESA or income support, you are allowed to do voluntary work for anyone other than a relative. A ‘relative’ is a parent (in-law or step-parent), son/daughter (in-law/step), brother, sister, or the partner of any of them; or a spouse or partner, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.
You must not be paid for your work, other than reasonable expenses in connection with that work. Permitted expenses could include travel, meals, childminding, the costs of caring for a dependant, equipment needed for work and use of a telephone. There is no limit on the number of hours you can volunteer.
Can I do voluntary work and claim Universal Credit?
If you are working as a volunteer under universal credit, the time you spend doing voluntary work can reduce by half the number of hours that the DWP will require you to look and prepare for work. This doesn’t mean there’s a limit on how much voluntary work you can do.
For example, if you are volunteering for 35 hours a week and you are required to look and prepare for work for 35 hours a week, this requirement can be reduced by half to 17.5 hours.