It’s no secret that the cost of living is on the rise. All you have to do is turn on the TV or glance over the newspaper headlines to find a story about prices rising faster than they have done for 40 years or how credit card debt is soaring, with Britons borrowing a whopping £100 billion to cope with the cost of living crisis.
If you’re worried about making ends meet, there is an alternative to getting into credit card debt or taking out loans, though. Since the end of the Second World War, the UK government has been trying to end poverty and hardship in society with its Welfare State. Nowadays, UK citizens can claim a wide variety of state benefits, such as Housing Benefit, Maternity Allowance, Statutory Sick Pay, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and, most recently, Universal Credit.
But did you know that you don’t even need to be out of work to qualify for some of these benefits? In this article, we’ll explain what you might be entitled to if you’re in employment, with a focus on the benefits you may be able to claim while working a 20-hour week.
Working a 20-hour week offers various benefits that you may be eligible to claim. If you work 20 hours or less per week, you could qualify for state benefits like Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, and Employment and Support Allowance.
Additionally, regardless of your weekly working hours, you may also be entitled to other benefits such as Carer's Allowance, Child Benefit, Housing Allowance, Maternity Pay, and Pension Credit.
Read on to find out more about which benefits you might be able to claim.
Some benefits depend on how many hours of paid work you (and your partner) do each week, such as:
- Working Tax Credit
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
Others depend on how much you earn, rather than how many hours you work, such as:
- Universal Credit
Working Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit was introduced in 2003 to help workers on a low income. It can be claimed by individuals, childless couples and families with dependent children.
If you’re already receiving Child Tax Credit, you may be able to claim Working Tax Credit too. If not, you will have to apply for Universal Credit instead of Working Tax Credit.
To qualify for Working Tax Credit, you must work a certain number of hours. How many depends on your circumstances:
|Circumstance||Hours you must work per week|
|Aged 25 to 59||At least 30 hours|
|Aged 60 or above||At least 16 hours|
|Disabled||At least 16 hours|
|Single with at least one child*||At least 16 hours|
|In a couple with at least one child*||Usually, at least 24 hours between you, with one of you working at least 16 hours**|
* A child is classed as someone who is under the age of 16 or under the age of 20 if they are in approved education or training
** If you work less than 24 hours a week between you, you may be able to claim if you work at least 16 hours per week and you’re aged 60 or above, or you’re disabled, or your partner is receiving certain benefits because of disability or ill health, they are entitled to Carer’s Allowance, or they’re in hospital or prison.
If you qualify, you’ll get a basic amount of up to £2,070 plus extra ‘elements’ on top. How much you get depends on your circumstances and your income. For an idea of what you could be entitled to, you can use the government’s calculator.
Universal Credit was introduced in 2012 to gradually replace six other benefits and tax credits as part of a process called “managed migration”. These benefits are:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
In most cases, you will no longer be able to make a new claim for these so-called “legacy benefits”, and you will need to apply for Universal Credit instead. If you’re currently receiving one or more of these benefits, you will continue to receive them until the Department for Work and Pensions asks you to move to Universal Credit or you choose to move over yourself.
Universal Credit is based on how much you earn rather than how many hours you work, so you may be entitled to claim this benefit if you work a 20-hour week. The amount you get, however, reduces the more you earn. People who are out of work can also claim Universal Credit.
You may qualify for this benefit if you meet the following criteria:
- You are not in work, or you’re on a low income
- You (and your partner or spouse) have less than £16,000 in savings
- You’re aged 18 or over (though there are some exceptions if you’re aged 16 or 17 or when you’re studying)
- You live in the UK
- You (or your partner or spouse) are under State Pension Age
Income Support is designed to help people on a low income or those with no income and who have a valid reason for not looking for work, such as carers and single parents who have children under the age of five.
If you already receive the Severe Disability Premium, you can make a new claim for Income Support, otherwise, you will have to apply for Universal Credit.
To be eligible for Income Support, you must have less than £16,000 in savings and not be in full-time work. If you do 16 or more hours of paid work per week and your partner (if you have one) does 24 hours of paid work per week, you will be classed as working full time and will not be able to claim Income Support. If, however, you do less than 16 hours of paid work per week (and your partner does less than 24 hours of paid work per week), you may be able to claim this benefit — but how much you get could depend on your earnings.
For the tax year 2022/23, single people aged 24 or under get up to £61.05 per week and single people aged 25 or over get up to £77; however, you could get more than this if you are a carer, disabled or a pensioner.
Jobseeker’s Allowance is the benefit given to people who are actively looking for work.
To be eligible for this benefit, you must not be in paid employment at all or work less than 16 hours per week.
Like Income Support, if you do 16 or more hours of paid work per week and your partner does 24 hours of paid work per week, you will be classed as working full time and won’t be able to claim this benefit. If, however, you do less than 16 hours of paid work per week and your partner does less than 24 hours of paid work per week, you may be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance — but how much you get could be affected by your earnings.
There are three different types of Jobseeker’s Allowance:
New-Style Jobseeker’s Allowance
This benefit is generally available to new claimants and those who have paid enough Class 1 National Insurance contributions in the last two to three years.
For the tax year 2022/23, people aged 24 or under get up to £61.05 per week and people aged 25 or over get up to £77. It doesn’t take dependent children, rent, savings or income into account, however, any pension you receive over £50 a week could reduce the amount you get.
Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
You will only be able to apply for the contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance if you already receive the Severe Disability Premium.
For the tax year 2022/23, people aged 24 or under get up to £61.05 per week and those aged 25 or over get up to £77.
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
Like the contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can only apply for the income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance if you already receive the Severe Disability Premium.
To be eligible for this benefit, you must be out of work or doing less than 16 hours of paid work per week.
Again, for the tax year 2022/23, people aged 24 or under get up to £61.05 per week and those aged 25 or over get up to £77, however, you could get more if you are a carer, disabled or pensioner. You could also receive less than this if you have savings between £6,000 and £16,000.
Employment and Support Allowance
To claim Employment and Support Allowance, you’re not usually allowed to work, however, there are some exceptions, such as working as a counsellor, doing voluntary work or caring for a relative.
There are two different types of Employment and Support Allowance:
Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
This benefit is for people who are sick or disabled, those who are unable to work and whose household is on a low income or those who have limited capacity to work.
You can only make a new claim for income-based Employment and Support Allowance if you already receive the Severe Disability Premium. Otherwise, you will need to apply for Universal Credit.
For the tax year 2022/23, people aged 24 or under get up to £61.05 per week and those aged 25 or over get up to £77. If you claim income-based Employment and Support Allowance and you have a partner, they can do less than 24 hours of paid work a week, but this could affect how much you’re entitled to.
New-style Employment and Support Allowance
This benefit is for people who are sick or disabled and are unable — or have limited capacity — to work.
To be eligible, you’ll need to have paid enough in National Insurance over the past two years. Because it’s based on your National Insurance record, your partner’s work hours won’t affect your entitlement.
If you’re already claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Statutory Sick Pay, you won’t be able to claim for this as well, however, it can be claimed alongside Universal Credit.
You’ll be assessed on your entitlement to this benefit, during which time you get up to £61.05 if you’re 24 or under or up to £77 if you’re 25 or over. After the assessment period, the amount you receive will vary, and if you’re disabled, you may be entitled to more.
Whether you’re entitled to any other benefits while in employment depends on your individual circumstances; however, you may be entitled to one or more of the following:
- Bereavement Allowance
- Bereavement Support Payment
- Budgeting loans and advances
- Carer’s Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Child Tax Credits
- Council support schemes
- Council Tax Reduction
- Funeral Payment
- Guardian’s Allowance
- Help sending your children to school
- Housing Benefit
- Maternity Allowance
- Maternity Grant
- Pension Credit
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Scottish Child Payment
- State Pension
- Statutory Adoption Pay
- Statutory Maternity Pay
- Statutory Paternity Pay
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Support for mortgage interest
- Widowed Parent’s Allowance
- Winter Fuel Payment
If you work a 20-hour week, you could be entitled to Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit. To qualify for Working Tax Credit, you must work a certain number of hours. How many depend on your circumstances. Universal Credit is based on how much you earn rather than how many hours you work; however, the amount you get reduces the more you earn.
If you work less than 20 hours a week, you may be able to claim Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.
There are also benefits available that don’t depend on the number of hours you work per week, which you could also be entitled to. Some of these include Carer’s Allowance, Child Benefit, Housing Allowance, Maternity Pay and Pension Credit.