Social Security & Taxation
Unemployment Benefits in the UK
Let’s assume that you have made it to the UK and have been working there for a while. What will happen, though, if you lose your job for some reason? Obviously, let’s hope that this question will never arise. Nonetheless, it helps to know your rights and responsibilities in such a “worst case” scenario.
Eligibility for Jobseeker’s Allowance
If you have acquired either British citizenship or the indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you may be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance while you keep applying for a job in the UK. To get this financial benefit, you need to fulfill the following conditions:
- You must be below retirement age, attend an interview, and regularly sign on at the local Job Centre.
- You must be considered able and available for work.
- You must have been laid off by your employer. If you give notice yourself, you have no right to Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- If you have paid NI contributions, you will get the allowance for six months. After that, you can only claim unemployment benefits if you have few savings and little income from other sources.
A single unemployed person aged 25 or older currently gets £71.70 per week. They may be eligible to apply for Housing Benefits as well, in order to help pay the monthly rent.
EU vs. Non-EU Nationals
EU nationals who lose their job in the UK may be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance, too. They normally meet the criteria for the so-called “Habitual Residence Test”, but they must have been working in the country for a certain minimum period.
For non-EEA nationals, this Habitual Residence Test (HRT) is one of the biggest obstacles to receiving unemployment benefits. In some cases, applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance may even hurt their immigration status. This happens, for example, if
- you are waiting for a visa application to be assessed or a permit to be renewed
- you are in the UK on the promise to use no public funds (this applies also to NHS healthcare, except in medical emergencies)
- you have a financial visa sponsor or a legal guarantor who has agreed to support you.
Even if you aren’t officially “subject to immigration control”, you must pass said Habitual Residence Test. You need not only have the legal right to live in the UK, but you should regard it as your habitual residence and actual home.
In any case, please get independent advice before contacting a Job Centre or any other government office. The Citizens Advice Bureau can counsel you on legal questions regarding immigration status and Jobseeker’s Allowance, as well as other benefits.
A Penny Saved…
Even if you do get Jobseeker’s Allowance, the sum will never permit you to uphold your previous standard of living. In areas like Greater London, it probably won’t even come close to covering the regular cost of living.
So, if you are planning a move to the UK, do a financial review of your assets first. If you should become unemployed, you’ll need a “Plan B” – a spouse or relative to support you, or a nice little “nest egg” to fall back on in hard times, while you are searching for a new position.