Waiting days for JSA and ESA

Issue 243 (December 2014)

New regulations, which came into force on 27 October, extend from three to seven the number of waiting days at the start of a claim for jobseekers allowance (JSA) or employment support allowance (ESA), during which the claimant has no entitlement.1 Dan Norris explains.

The regulations mean that a claimant is paid no JSA or ESA for the first seven days of a job-seeking period or a period of limited capability for work. The regulations apply to claimants of both income-related and contributory-based ESA and JSA. Transitional provisions ensure that the extended waiting days apply only to claims where the waiting period began on or after 27 October 2014.

The rules governing which claimants are exempted from the waiting day rules and who are deemed to have already served the required waiting days remain unchanged.

JSA claimants are advised at the beginning of their claim to undertake job search activities, but cannot be mandated to do so or sanctioned if they do not. A jobseeker’s direction may be issued to a claimant during waiting days, but cannot be mandated until the waiting days have been completed.2

In introducing the regulations, the government sought to discourage short-term claims for benefit and to generate savings intended to fund ‘new labour market measures’ to help claimants into work, including English language training.3 The government estimates the average loss of benefit caused by the increased waiting days as £40 for JSA claimants and £50 for ESA claimants and that 1,180,000 JSA claimants and 166,000 ESA claimants will serve waiting days in 2015/16.

JSA and ESA claimants may be awarded short-term benefit advances during any waiting days; however, the calculation of the amount of any advance they can be paid does not include reference to waiting days they must serve.4 The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) referred to the availability of short-term benefit advances in explaining its rejection of the Social Security Advisory Committee’s (SSAC’s) recommendation that the increase in the number of waiting days not apply to ESA claimants.

The DWP also rejected the SSAC’s recommendation that it considers exempting particular vulnerable groups, including domestic violence survivors and homeless people, from the increased waiting days. The DWP is considering exempting vulnerable groups from the seven-day waiting period it proposes should apply to universal credit (UC) claimants in the all work-related requirements group from 27 April 2015 on the basis that, as UC calculations include housing, child care and children costs, the prospect of hardship caused by UC waiting days is greater than that caused by JSA or ESA waiting days.


Please be aware that welfare rights law and guidance change frequently. Therefore older Bulletin articles may be out of date. Use keywords or the search function to find more recent material on this topic.

  • 1. Social Security (Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance) (Waiting Days) Amendment Regulations 2014 SI No.3096; Social Security (Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance) (Waiting Days) Amendment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 (SR No.235/2014)
  • 2. DMG28/14 Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance Waiting Days
  • 3. Paras 3.4 and 3.5 Explanatory Memorandum for the Social Security Advisory Committee, 7 May 2014
  • 4. Reg 5(1)(a) Universal Credit and Miscellaneous Amendments (No.2) Regulations 2014 SI No. 2888