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Jobseeker's Allowance and work

Introduction

One of the primary conditions for getting either Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance is that you must be unemployed. However, you do not have to be totally unemployed – you must be unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7 consecutive days (from 20 February 2013). You must also be available for and actively seeking work.

You can work and get Jobseeker’s Allowance if:

You must meet all the other conditions for Jobseeker’s Allowance. For example, you must pass a means test and be unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7. You must also continue to look for full-time work.

Jobseeker’s Allowance is a means-tested payment so your household income must be below a certain level to qualify. Your income from work is assessed and can affect your Jobseeker's Allowance payment. However, only a certain amount of income from work is taken into account. This is called your means from work. If you have a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant their income from work or other sources is also taken into account and can affect your Jobseeker’s Allowance payment.

Other sources of income can also affect your Jobseeker's Allowance payment. Here we are only looking at how your income from work can affect Jobseeker’s Allowance. Jobseeker’s Allowance is not taxable.

You can use a new Benefit of Work Ready Reckoner from the Department of Social Protection to help you assess out the financial consequences of taking up full-time work. The Reckoner works out the total amount you would receive on taking up full-time work (including any Family Income Supplement) and compares this to what you are getting in jobseeker payments (including Rent Supplement).

Calculating means from work

Here we show you how to calculate your means from employment (not self-employment). You can find out how income from self-employment is assessed in our document Self-employment and unemployment.

Assessable earnings from work

The following items are always deducted from your gross earnings to get your assessable earnings from work:

There are 2 stages to calculating how work will affect your Jobseeker’s Allowance.

First you must find out if you have an entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance at all - see ‘Part 1’ below. If you are entitled to some Jobseeker’s Allowance then you need to calculate how much Jobseeker’s Allowance you may get - see ‘Part 2’ below.

Part 1: Find out if you have an entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance

First, you must find out if you have an entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance.

To do this take your assessable weekly earnings (see above) and deduct €20 per day for each day you have worked up to a maximum of €60 (3 days). Next get 60% of the balance. This amount is your weekly means from work.

Assessable weekly earnings - €20 per day = total x 60% = weekly means from work.

You then work out what the maximum Jobseeker’s Allowance payment for your situation would be. You get this by adding together the maximum payment for yourself plus any increases for a qualified adult and any qualified children. If your weekly means are less than this figure then your daily means are calculated to find the actual amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance you will get.

If your weekly means from all sources are greater than the maximum Jobseeker’s Allowance payment for your situation then you will not get Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Maximum weekly rate of Jobseeker's Allowance for people aged 26 and over (2014)

Personal rate (claimant) €188
Increase for a qualified adult €124.80
Increase for a qualified child €29.80 (full-rate) €14.90 (half rate)

People under 26 years of age get a reduced rate of Jobseeker's Allowance. However, there are exceptions and some people under 26 may get a higher JA rate. You can find more information on the JA rate for people under 26 in our document on Jobseeker's Allowance.

What happens if my partner is getting a social welfare payment?

If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant has a social welfare payment in their own right (except Child Benefit, Disablement Pension, guardian's payments, Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Domiciliary Care Allowance and half-rate Carer's Allowance) or is on a SOLAS or VTOS course and getting a payment in their own right you cannot claim an Increase for a Qualified Adult for them.

This means that the maximum you can be paid is the maximum Jobseeker’s Allowance payment for a single person plus a half-rate allowance for each qualified child. (Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant will get a half-rate payment for each qualified child with their payment.)

In addition only 50% of your combined means are taken into account in the means test for your Jobseeker’s Allowance - in other words your combined means are halved. (The other half will be taken into account in the means test for your partner's payment if your partner is getting a means-tested payment.)

You can claim an increase for your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant while they are taking part in a Community Employment (CE) scheme. Their earnings from the scheme are assessed in the same way as earnings from insurable employment (and your combined means are not halved).

However if you are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and your spouse or partner is getting one of the social welfare payments listed below, the total amount paid cannot be more than would be payable if only one of you was claiming and the other was an adult dependant.

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Farm Assist
  • Illness Benefit
  • Disablement Pension (when paid with Injury Benefit or Incapacity Supplement)
  • Injury Benefit
  • Invalidity Pension
  • State Pension (Non-Contributory)
  • State Pension (Contributory)
  • State Pension (Transition)
  • Jobseeker's Benefit

Part 2: Calculate how work will affect your Jobseeker’s Allowance

If you are entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance, you then calculate how work will affect your payment.

1. Calculate your average daily earnings
To calculate your average daily earnings get your total weekly assessable earnings from employment and divide by the number of days you worked that week (including Sunday).

Total weekly earnings ÷ number of days worked = average daily earnings.

2. Next calculate your daily means from work
To calculate your daily means from work, you must first disregard any income not taken into account. €20 is not taken into account for days worked. Next get 60% of the balance. This is assessed as your daily means from work.

Average daily earnings - €20 = total x 60% = daily means from work.

3. Finally, find your weekly means from work
To find your weekly means from work, multiply your daily means by the number of days worked. If you get paid for a public holiday and you don't work that day, it will be included in the number of days worked - see 'Public holidays' below.

Daily means from work x number of days worked = weekly means from work.

Remember that this figure must be halved if your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting a social welfare payment in their own right (see above for details).

Sunday work

Before 20 February 2013 if you worked on Sunday calculating your means from employment was done differently. You included your earnings from Sunday when calculating your assessable weekly earnings. However Sunday was not counted as a day of work, so your daily means from work on a Sunday were not taken into account in the means test.

However work on Sunday is now included so:

  1. You include your earnings from Sunday when working out your assessable weekly earnings
  2. You include Sunday when you are checking to see whether your assessable weekly earnings are over the limit
  3. You include Sunday when calculating your average daily earnings
  4. You include Sunday when calculating your daily means or weekly means from work

Public holidays

If you work part-time, your employer must pay you for the public holidays which you don’t work, as long as, you have worked at least 40 hours in the 5 weeks immediately before the week of the public holiday. More information on payment for public holidays, can be found in our document on Public holidays.

If you get paid for a public holiday and don't work that day, it will be included in the number of days worked to find your weekly means from work. Depending on your means, you can continue to get Jobseeker’s Allowance for the other days you do not work.

How much Jobseeker’s Allowance you get

Subtract your weekly means from the maximum Jobseeker’s Allowance payment for your situation to find out how much Jobseeker’s Allowance you will get.

Note: The maximum weekly rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance for your circumstances is the maximum rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance and any increases for your adult dependant and child dependants. If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting a social welfare payment in their own right an increase for a qualified adult is not included in the maximum Jobseeker’s Allowance payment for your situation and you will only get a half-rate increase for each qualified child.

If you have other means in addition to means from work they will also be taken into account and will affect how much Jobseeker’s Allowance you will get.

Worksheet

You may find our Worksheet to help you calculate your means from work for Jobseeker's Allowance useful.

Getting Family Income Supplement (FIS) and Jobseeker’s Allowance

If your income from work is reduced or you are working part-time and you are supporting at least one child you may get Family Income Supplement (FIS). You must be working 19 or more hours per week (or 38 hours per fortnight) and your income must be below a certain amount. You cannot get FIS and Jobseeker’s Allowance at the same time. However your partner can get FIS while you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance. You can visit your social welfare local office or Citizens Information Centre to work out which payment would be of greater benefit to you.

Seasonal earnings

  • Created annually as a result of a particular seasonal variation in the amount of work, and terminates at the end of that season.
  • The start and end dates may vary from season to season and from worker to worker, but overall there should be a clearly discernible beginning and end to the season.
  • The length of the season should not generally exceed six months.

In determining whether a person is involved in seasonal employment the nature of the business is investigated, as well as the nature of the person's employment.

Some of the typical areas where seasonal employments exist are:

  • Turf harvesting with Bord na Mona
  • Fish processing
  • Ice cream manufacturing
  • Hotels, restaurants and shops in areas where there is a limited tourist season.

Once the season is over, the means from seasonal employment are excluded from the assessment until the commencement of the next season.

Spouse’s, civil partner’s or cohabitant's income from work

Your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income from employment is assessed in the means test for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Their income from work is assessed in the same way as your income from work (if any). To work out what your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's means from work is:

  • Deduct €20 per day from your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's assessable earnings for each day worked up to a maximum of €60 (including Sunday)
  • Next get 60% of the balance. This is assessed as his or her weekly means from work.

Assessable weekly earnings - €20 per day (maximum €60 for 3 days work) = total x 60% = weekly means from work.

This figure is halved if your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is also:

  • Getting a social welfare payment (except Child Benefit, Disablement Pension, guardian's payment, Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Domiciliary Care Allowance and half-rate Carer's Allowance)
  • On a SOLAS course or on a VTOS course and getting an allowance in his or her own right (not including CE)

Note: If means are halved, an increase for a qualified adult is not payable but you can get a half-rate increase for each qualified child.

Spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income from self-employment

Your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income from self-employment is assessed in the means test for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The assessment must reflect the earnings your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant may reasonably be expected to get from their business over the next 12 months. Income for the last 12 months will be taken as a guide but allowing for any factors which it is known will vary. Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant should be prepared to discuss these factors when you are assessed for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Earnings are assessed as gross income less work related expenses over 12 months. The expected annual earnings from self-employment is divided by 52 to find your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's weekly means from self-employment.

Any ‘drawings’ taken from the business is not an allowable expense. If the ‘drawings’ from the business are greater than the level of income calculated, the ‘drawings’ are assessed as cash income.

There is no exhaustive list of all expenses allowed because expenses vary with the nature and extent of the self-employment. However the following are the main allowable expenses in most cases:

  • Materials (supplies costs)
  • Motor running costs (portion applicable to business)
  • Depreciation of machinery or equipment
  • Insurance relating to the business
  • Telephone (portion applicable to business)
  • Lighting and heating (for business and not domestic use)
  • Advertising
  • Bank charges
  • Stationery
  • Van leasing
  • Any other costs associated with running the business
  • Household running costs are not allowed as deductions against business profit

To prove the level of income from the business your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant must give his or her receipts and payments (documentation showing money coming in and out of the business) or audited accounts to the person dealing with your application in your Social Welfare Local Office.

Further information

Getting Jobseeker's Allowance before 26 September 2007

If you were getting Jobseeker's Allowance before 26 September 2007 and you were still in payment on 26 September, your income and your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income will be assessed using both the old means test and the new means test. You will get the higher amount. (The old means test is the means test used before 26 September 2007. The new means test is used on JA applications recieved after 26 September 2007).

If you would get a greater amount of JA on the previous assessment then you will continue to be assessed using the previous method of calculating means from employment.

If you stop claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for more than 4 weeks you cannot apply the old method of calculating means from employment. If the first time you stop claiming JA is for less than 4 weeks, the second time you stop claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (even if it is for less than 4 weeks) you will be assessed using the new assessment only. This means, if you want to be assessed using the previous method you are only allowed one break in your claim of less than 4 weeks

Before 26 September 2007 your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income from employment affected your JA payment as follows:

If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant works and earns less than €100 gross per week, you are entitled to a full increase for him/her as a qualified adult. A reduced qualified adult allowance is paid if his/her earnings are between €100 and €310. If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant earns more than €310, you will not be paid any increase for him/her. If you have a child dependant and you are getting a child dependant increase in your payment, this portion is halved if your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant earns more than €310.

In summary:

Spouse, civil partner or cohabitant works Take home pay Your payment
1,2 or 3 days €50 No change
1,2 or 3 days More than €50

Any earnings over this amount are halved and deducted from your payment

4 or more days €100 No change
4 or more days More than €100

Any earnings over this amount are halved and deducted from your payment


Your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income can also affect your payment. Read more about how your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income from employment is assessed as means and possibly affect your Jobseeker's Allowance.

Your average weekly net earnings are used to calculate your means. This is usually established by calculating your average earning over the previous 13 weeks (or another period if this is more representative of your normal working pattern). When assessing your income from employment the following allowances are always deducted from your gross earnings to get your net earnings.

  • PRSI (Contribution)
  • Union dues
  • Reasonable travel expenses
  • Superannuation or contribution to a private health insurance fund

How your income from employment is assessed depends on whether you have child dependants.

If you have one or more qualified child dependants and you are working part of the week while claiming JA, your means are assessed as 60% of your average net weekly earnings.

If you do not have qualified child dependants, €12.70 euro of your earnings for each day worked are not taken into account and disregarded from your average net weekly earnings. Only 60% of the balance is assessed against the weekly rate of JA.

A person is entitled to JA only for periods of unemployment. The minimum period a person must be unemployed in order to receive JA is 3 days in a period of 6 consecutive days.

Getting JA before 20 November 1996

If you were getting JA on 20 November 1996 and have continued to get JA continuously, you can continue to be assessed using the method of calculating means from employment in place at that time to find out if you would get a greater amount of JA.

If your means have changed, for any reason since the 20 November 1996, you cannot apply this method of calculating means from employment.

Before 20 November 1996 your spouse's, civil partner's or cohabitant's income from employment affected your JA payment as follows:

The following method of assessing means from insurable employment applies if you were getting JA on the 20th November 1996 and have continued to get JA continuously and if this method of assessment is of greater benefit than that under the current method of assessment of earnings from work. If your means have changed, for any reason since the 20th November 1996, the saver rate will not apply.

The following is how you means are assessed using the Saver Clause:

  • Your pattern of employment is established (that is, your average number of days worked each week)
  • Average net weekly earnings are established (i.e. gross earnings less income tax, PRSI, VHI, BUPA, HSF, superannuation and union dues)
  • A certain amount of your average net weekly earnings are not taken into account, this is called an earnings disregard. One-sixth of the maximum weekly rate of Job Seeker's Allowance plus €19.05 for each day worked. If you work Sunday only €19.05 is not taken into account.
  • The total amount disregarded is deducted from the net earnings and the balance is taken as your weekly means.
Page updated: 27 January 2014

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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.