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Permitted Work – under benefits

What is permitted work?

If you are getting Employment and Support Allowance and other 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’.

The idea of permitted work is that it allows you to test your own capacity for doing some work and perhaps gain new skills. To help make this possible earnings under permitted work are ignored in the benefit calculation, up to a limit of £115.50.

Can I do permitted work?

Permitted work is a benefit arrangement – employers do not offer ‘permitted work’.
If you are getting one of the benefits below you are allowed to do permitted work:
•    Employment and Support Allowance (ESA),
•    Incapacity Benefit (IB),
•    Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA),
•    Income Support (IS) because of incapacity for work.

If you are considering starting permitted work you must tell the DWP or Jobcentre Plus and get their approval. The general rule is that these benefits are paid because you are not fit for work and will stop if you do some work.

You do not need approval from your doctor or have to have a medical assessment just because you are doing permitted work. If a medical assessment is due as part of your ongoing benefits-related review, it will go ahead as planned.

How long can I do permitted work for?

Permitted work is up to a maximum of 15 hours per week, unless you are doing supported permitted work when there is no hours limit and only the earnings limit applies. 

For most people there is currently a 52 week limit on permitted work. However, if you are in the Support Group of Employment and Support Allowance there is no 52 week limit. From April 2017 the 52 week limit will be removed for people in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance as well.

There is also no limit if you satisfy the supported permitted work criteria. This means work that is supervised by someone who is employed by a public or local council or a voluntary organisation, and whose job it is to arrange work for disabled people. This could be work done in the community or in a sheltered workshop. It also includes work as part of a hospital treatment programme.

How does permitted work affect my benefits?

Earnings under permitted work are ignored (disregarded) in the benefit calculation, so the amount you receive is not affected.

Earnings under permitted work up to £115.50 are allowed in Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance. However, Income Support still only ignores £20 a week of permitted work. If you are doing permitted work and claiming Income Support you may therefore be better off claiming income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

Earnings from permitted work (below the limit) are also ignored completely in Housing Benefit and in most Council Tax Support schemes run by local councils.
The idea is to allow people to work for up to 15 hours a week at the minimum wage, so the permitted work earnings limit (in IB, SDA and ESA).

Other allowed work

The following kinds of work are also allowed:

  • care of a relative or domestic tasks carried out in your own home
  • work done as a councillor. Any payments over £115.50 will be deducted from your benefits
  • duties as a member of the DLA Advisory Board or as a ‘disability member’ of an appeal tribunal – one day a week is allowed (or two half days)
  • an approved work trial arranged in writing with the employer by the DWP (or an organisation providing services to the DWP) for which you will receive no wages