What happens when I sign on?

Claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance

The basic benefit claimed by most people who are out of work is Jobseeker’s Allowance, or JSA – the benefit that replaced Unemployment Benefit, which is most commonly known as ‘the dole’, and for which you are required to visit your local Job Centre to sign on fortnightly.

There are four kinds of claim – it helps to have a think about the options before you contact the Job Centre:

You may choose to sign on for NI contributions only. This means that you will not receive any money, but your national insurance contributions will continue to be paid, which is important for maintaining your pension and benefits rights. If you sign on for nothing else, it is highly advisable to sign on to receive these.

If you have been working for an employer and paying tax and national insurance (NI) contributions for the last few years, or a shorter time within the last three years, but earning a good wage, you will almost certainly have made enough NI contributions to be entitled to contributions-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. This is payable for 26 weeks, irrespective of your or your partner’s income, assets and investments, and is not a means-tested benefit. Self-employed NI contributions generally don’t count for the purposes of contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. However, contributions made while working abroad may help you qualify.

If you haven’t worked sufficiently to build up enough national insurance contributions, or you’ve come to the end of the 26 weeks of contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can apply for income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. This is a means-tested benefit, which means that you will be asked some quite personal questions about your income, savings, assets and expenditure to establish whether you have an entitlement. You will also be asked about your partner, and their income, savings and expenditure, even if you are not making a joint claim. Usually, you cannot get a claim for income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance backdated if you don’t claim for this initially.

If you have a partner who you live with who is not working, and you have no other income between you, you may need to make a joint claim.

How much Job Seeker’s Allowance will I get?

It depends on your circumstances – the rate for single people over 24 years old in the 2009/10 tax year is £64.30 per week. The rates applicable in different circumstances are on this page.