This blog post aims to explain in detail how many hours a claimant (or potential claimant) works in the UK, without having their benefits affected. For this, we will explore the benefits that are affected by the working hours of claimants; as well as review some exceptions situations.

How Many Hours Can You Work In The UK Without Affecting Your Benefits?

The number of hours you can work in the UK without affecting your benefits depends on the nature of the benefits that you are claiming as the number of working hours affects certain welfare benefits and forms the basis for the eligibility criteria; while it is completely ignored by others.

For instance, if you are claiming Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can only work 16 hours or less per week so that you can continue claiming these benefits. If your working hours increase, you will no longer remain qualified for Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

If you are claiming Working Tax Credits, one of the essential requirements is that the claimant should be working at least 16 hours per week to claim the benefit. Therefore, if you are no longer eligible for Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance due to an increase in working hours, you may be able to claim Working Tax Credits.

In the case of Employment and Support Allowance, one can only claim the benefit if they are not working at all. This means that ESA is only offered to individuals who are unable to work (while their partner can work up to 24 hours per week).

On the other hand, if you are a Universal Credit claimant, your payments will not be affected by the number of hours you work. The working hours for UC claimants are mutually agreed upon between the claimant and their work coach through a Claimant Commitment. This document states whether or not the claimant is expected to work or search for work while they receive benefits payments. 

However, as Universal Credit is a benefit extended to individuals on a low income; if an increase in the number of working hours takes your income above the low-income threshold, your benefits payments will decrease with each subsequent increase in income.

This means that there is no generic rule that applies to UC claimants; some may be expected to work or look for work, while others may not be.

Another point to note here is that since welfare benefits are generally intended towards providing financial support to individuals who are on a low income, the income and savings of applicants will play a more important role in determining their qualification or welfare benefits as compared to the hours that work.

In contrast to this, should someone be claiming Disability Benefits such as Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Payment, their working hours or income will not affect their benefits claim. The reason for this lies in the fact that Disability Benefits are non-means-tested benefits that provide financial support to individuals challenged with a health condition or disability.

Which Benefits Are Affected By The Number Of Hours You Work?

Benefits that are affected by the number of hours you work include the following:

  • Income Support: This is a non-taxable, means-tested benefit which takes your income and savings into account before your claim is approved. Qualifying individuals in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales receive financial support through this benefit if they are low on income or unemployed and do not qualify for JSA or ESA.
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance: This is a taxable benefit that takes your income and savings into account only if you claim income-based JSA. If you apply for a contribution-based JSA, there will be no means test. It can be claimed by individuals who are capable of working; are either working less than 16 hours per week or are unemployed.
  • Working Tax Credits: This is a non-taxable means-tested benefit that can be claimed by individuals who are on a low income. While there is no maximum threshold for working hours, in this case, claimants are expected to work at least 30 hours per week to claim WTC.
  • Employment & Support Allowance: Claimants are usually not allowed to work if they wish to claim ESA. However, in certain circumstances, you may be able to work for 16 hours per week under the “Permitted Work” criteria of this benefit. The condition of this exception is that you should not earn more than £143 during this time.

What Type Of Work Does Not Affect Your Benefits?

Work that does not affect your benefits includes the following:

  • If you are taking care of a relative who needs support due to a medical condition or a disability
  • If you are performing domestic tasks in your own home
  • If you are in a DWP-approved unpaid work trial or work placement
  • If the work that you do is regarded as trivial or very small by the DWP
  • If you are self-employed for up to 26 weeks with support from a DWP provider
  • If you work as a councillor
  • If your work includes any emergency activity to protect another person or to prevent serious damage; either to property or livestock
  • If your work includes duties such as an appeal tribunal disability 
  • If you are fostering a child or providing respite care to someone who is not a household member 

This means that if the nature of your work involves any of the above-listed activities, the number of hours that you work will not affect any of your benefits. 

To be sure of the benefits that you can qualify for as well as to have a rough estimate of how much to expect in payments, you can try to explore your options by using an independent, online benefits calculator

Conclusion:

The above discussion demarcates the list of benefits that are affected by the number of hours that a claimant works from those benefits that remain unaffected by these working hours. We have also learnt of some unique cases such as Universal Credit, which tends to be affected by the income of the claimant and not the actual number of hours that they spend working. 

References:

Understanding Universal Credit – How earnings affect Universal Credit

How are benefits affected by hours worked? – Turn2us

Which benefits are affected by hours worked? – Turn2us

Work and claiming benefits | Disability charity Scope the UK