Jobseeker's Allowance

Introduction

If you are unemployed, you may be paid either Jobseeker's Allowance (JA) or Jobseeker's Benefit (JB). Both payments are paid by the Department of Social Protection (DSP).

You may get Jobseeker's Allowance if you don't qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit or if you have used up your entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit. In some cases, if you are only entitled to a reduced rate of Jobseeker's Benefit you may be better off on Jobseeker's Allowance. However, Jobseeker's Allowance is means-tested and your means must be below a certain level to qualify.

The Jobseeker’s Transitional payment (JST) is a special arrangement under the Jobseeker’s Allowance scheme that aims to support lone parents into the workforce while they have young children. This payment is available to people parenting alone whose youngest child is aged between 7 and 13 years inclusive.

Intreo - the integrated employment and support service

Intreo is a service from the Department of Social Protection which provides a single point of contact for all employment and income supports. Details of Intreo Centre locations are published on welfare.ie.

Rules

To get Jobseeker's Allowance you must be aged over 18 and under 66. You must also:

  • Be unemployed (you must be fully unemployed or unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7)
  • Be capable of work
  • Be available for full-time work and genuinely seeking work
  • Satisfy the means test
  • Meet the habitual residence condition

You can read more about the conditions for getting a jobseeker's payment and about the employment services the Department of Social Protection offers to jobseekers.

There are some special provisions for older jobseekers and for pregnant women.

Jobseeker's Allowance and work

You must be unemployed to get Jobseeker’s Allowance. You must also be capable of, available for, and genuinely seeking full-time work to qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance – and you must be able to show evidence of this to the Department of Social Protection. However, there are circumstances in which you can do some work and get Jobseeker’s Allowance. Income from work affects the amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance you get.

If you get part-time or casual work (up to and including 3 days per week), you may still be paid Jobseeker's Allowance for the other days. However, you must show that you are trying to get full-time employment. If your employer reduces your days at work to 3 days week or less, you may get Jobseeker's Allowance for the other days. You must meet the other conditions that apply to Jobseeker's Allowance, for example, you must satisfy a means test. There is an exemption from some of the rules for retained firefighters.

If you have been getting long-term Jobseeker's Allowance (over 390 days or 15 months) and you take up part-time work for less than 24 hours a week you may be eligible for the Part-time Job Incentive Scheme (PTJI). This scheme allows you to take up part-time work and get a special weekly allowance instead of your jobseeker’s payment.

Find out more about how income from work is assessed for Jobseeker’s Allowance. You can also take up to two weeks holiday in a year and continue to get your payment.

If you are getting JA you can use a Benefit of Work Ready Reckoner from the Department of Social Protection to help you assess 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). A Back to Work Family Dividend has been introduced for lone parent and long-term jobseeker families with children who find or return to work from January 2015.

Self-employment

If you are self-employed, you may be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance, depending on your income from your business. You can find out more about self-employment and unemployment. Self-employed farmers on a low income can apply for Farm Assist.

Artists

Under a pilot scheme launched in June 2017, self-employed visual artists and writers who apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance will not be subject to the activation process for at least 12 months. All other scheme conditions will apply, including the means test. To participate in this programme, artists will need a certificate from a relevant professional body. If you are a visual artist, the body that issues certificates confirming professional status is Visual Artists Ireland. If you are a writer, the Irish Writers Centre is the relevant body.

Means test

Jobseeker's Allowance is a means-tested payment. Your means must be below a certain level to get Jobseeker’s Allowance. A means test looks at all your household sources of income including your spouse’s, civil partner’s or cohabitant's income. (A cohabitant is a person living in an intimate and committed relationship with a person of the same or opposite sex who is not that person’s spouse, civil partner, or a close relative.)

However, some income may not be taken into account. Your total household means is deducted from the maximum payment for your household's circumstances to find the actual amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance you are entitled to.

If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting a social welfare payment in his or her own right (with some exceptions) or is on a Further Education and Training (FET) course or VTOS course and getting an allowance you will not get an Increase for a Qualified Adult but you will get a half-rate increase for any qualified children. A limitation applies which means that if you are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting certain social welfare payments, the total amount paid to you as a couple cannot be more than the maximum amount that would be paid to one person (including adult and child dependants) on one social welfare payment. Find out more about the means test for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

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

If you are 24 years of age or under and you are living with a parent or a step-parent in the family home, some of your parents' income will also be taken into account in the assessment for Jobseeker's Allowance. The Department call this an assessment of the 'benefit and privilege' you get from living with your parents. Find out more about how living with your parents is assessed in the means test.

Disqualification and reduction in payment

You may be disqualified from getting Jobseeker's Allowance for 9 weeks if you:

  • Left work voluntarily and without just cause
  • Lost your job through misconduct
  • Refused an offer of suitable employment or training - if you have been on a penalty rate of JA for at least 21 days

Your payment can be reduced if you refuse or fail to attend meetings requested by the Department or if you refuse or fail to participate in an appropriate employment support scheme, work experience or training (see also Penalty rates below). Read more about sanctions that may apply if you do not fulfil the conditions of your jobseeker's payment.

Students

If you have just left school you cannot get Jobseeker's Allowance. To get Jobseeker's Allowance you must have been out of school for 3 months and you must be at least 18 years of age.

Third-level students cannot claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Benefit while they are studying full-time. This disqualification also applies to the summer holiday periods between academic years (unless you are a mature student). However once you have finished college permanently you can claim a jobseeker's payment if you cannot find work. This is also the case if you leave college without finishing your course.

The 3 month disqualification rule does not apply to Youthreach participants.

Short-term employment or training

The Department of Social Protection operates a fast-tracking system for people who sign off a jobseeker's payment to take up work for a short period (up to 12 weeks) or to go on a short training course (up to 12 weeks). This ensures that your payment is re-instated without delay. It is important that you inform your Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office in advance that you are taking up work or training. Your Rent Supplement claim can also be suspended for up to 12 weeks.

Rates

Jobseeker's Allowance rates from 8 March 2017

Age Maximum personal rate Increase for a qualified adult Increase for a qualified child
Aged 26 and over €193.00 €128.10 €29.80
Aged 25 €147.80 €128.10 n/a
Aged 18-24 €102.70 €102.70 n/a

Reduced personal and qualified adult rates of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) for people under 26 do not apply to the following claimants:

  • People with dependent children
  • People transferring from Disability Allowance to JA
  • People who were in the care of the Child and Family Agency during the 12 months before reaching 18. These people are assessed using the JA rate for people aged 26 or over. This exception only applies between the ages of 18 and 24. From the age of 25, the age-related rate applies. From the age of 26, the full personal rate applies.

If you were getting an age-related reduced rate of JA and you take part in a course of education, training or an employment support scheme the appropriate personal rate of payment applicable to that course or scheme will apply as long as you are aged under 26. When you complete the course you will go back to your previous age-related JA rate.

Since 1 January 2014 all Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) participants aged under 26 who were getting a reduced age-related Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, get a maximum BTEA rate of €160 per week (increasing to €193 from September 2017). Any means you have are deducted from this rate.

Penalty rates

Your payment can be reduced if you refuse or fail to attend meetings requested by the Department or if you refuse or fail to participate in an appropriate employment support scheme, work experience or training. You can find out about sanctions for not meeting the conditions of your jobseeker's payment. Penalty rates do not apply to people over 62.

Payments for dependants

If you qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance you get an amount for yourself, which is called the 'personal rate of payment'. You may also get an increase in your payment for an adult dependant and any child dependants you may have.

Child dependants
A child dependant is usually a child up to 18 years of age who lives with you.

If you have been getting Jobseeker’s Allowance for at least 156 days and your child is in full-time education, an Increase for a Qualified Child (IQC) will be paid up to 22 years of age or up to the end of the academic year in which he or she reaches 22. You will only get a half-rate IQC if you and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant are both getting a social welfare payment. You will each get a half-rate IQC.

Adult dependants
You may get an Increase for a Qualified Adult (IQA) for an adult dependant (this is usually your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant). If you are single, widowed, divorced, separated, a former civil partner or not living with your civil partner, and living with a person aged 16 or over, you can claim an IQA for them but only if he or she is caring for a child dependant of yours.

If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant works or is taking part in a Community Employment (CE scheme), Tús or Gateway their earnings from insurable employment are assessed in the same way as your earnings from part-time or casual work. Find out more about work and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Getting paid

You can collect your Jobseeker’s Allowance payment weekly from your nearest Post Office. You must bring valid photographic identification (photo ID) with you to collect your payment. The following is considered to be valid photo ID:

  • Public Services Card
  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • GNIB card
  • EU/EEA nationals may use a National Identity Card

Staff working in the Post Office may ask to see your photo ID before giving you your payment.

Other benefits

If you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance, you may be entitled to:

  • Rent Supplement - a payment that helps with the cost of your rent.
  • Fuel Allowance - a weekly payment between October and April to help with fuel costs. Fuel Allowance is payable to people who have been getting a jobseeker’s payment for 390 days, if they satisfy the relevant qualifying conditions. Days of unemployment on Jobseeker's Benefit count towards the 390 days if the Jobseeker’s Benefit claim was immediately before the award of Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance - a payment to help with the cost of uniforms and footwear for children who are attending school.
  • Medical card - if your income is below a certain level, you may get a medical card.

You do not qualify for the Household Benefits Package or Free Travel with Jobseeker’s Allowance.

How to apply

You should apply for Jobseeker's Allowance as soon as you become unemployed. It is important to apply as soon as you become unemployed because you will not get paid for the first 3 days of your claim. If your claim is linked to a previous claim for Jobseeker's Allowance, you may be paid for the first 3 days.

If you make a late claim, it may be backdated if you provide good evidence for the delay.

Jobseeker's Allowance application forms are available online. You can also get an application form from your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office. You will need to bring certain documents with you when you apply for Jobseeker's Allowance.

You can get help with filling in your application form at your Intreo Centre, Social Welfare Branch Office or nearest Citizens Information Centre.

More information is available in our document about signing on for the first time.

If you think you have been wrongly refused Jobseeker's Allowance you can appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Where to apply

You should apply for Jobseeker's Allowance to your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.

Page edited: 22 August 2017