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Jobseeker's Benefit

Information

Jobseeker's Benefit is a weekly payment from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to people who are out of work and are covered by social insurance (PRSI). Jobseeker's Benefit used to be called Unemployment Benefit (the name of the payment changed in 2006). If you don't qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit you may qualify for Jobseeker's Allowance.

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).

Older jobseekers

Existing arrangements for older jobseekers

People over 65 who are claiming Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB), and who have at least 156 PRSI contributions, can continue to receive JB until their 66th birthday even if their claim is due to end before that date. This special provision extends the duration of JB for people aged 65 and over and aims to support the transition of older workers from the labour force into retirement.

New arrangements for older jobseekers

The Department of Social Protection is putting new administrative provisions in place to ease the transition from the labour force into retirement. From 1 January 2014, if you are claiming Jobseeker’s Benefit or Allowance and are aged 62 or over, the following will apply:

  • You will no longer be required to engage with the activation process and you will not be subject to penalty rates for non-engagement
  • You can voluntarily avail of a range of supports (for example, training or employment support programmes) from the Department of Social Protection

In addition, most jobseekers aged 62 or over will be placed on a yearly signing arrangement with their local social welfare office (this means that they do not need to sign on regularly) and most will be transferred to Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) payments so payment can be made directly into their bank account. Certain categories of older jobseekers may be required to engage more frequently with their local social welfare office. For example, casual jobseekers of 62 and older must continue to submit weekly dockets of their work patterns.

Note that to qualify for either Jobseeker’s Benefit or Allowance you must be genuinely seeking work and be available for full-time employment and these conditions will continue to apply to older jobseekers.

Intreo - the integrated employment and support service

Intreo is a new service from the Department of Social Protection which will provide a single point of contact for all employment and income supports. Currently Intreo is available in 43 Department of Social Protection offices. More Intreo centres are due to open during 2014. Details of new locations will be published on welfare.ie.

Rules

To qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit you must:

  • Be unemployed (you must be fully unemployed or unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7)
  • Be under 66 years of age
  • Have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions
  • Be capable of work
  • Be available for and genuinely seeking work
  • Have had a substantial loss of employment and as a result be unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7

Work and Jobseeker's Benefit

To get Jobseeker's Benefit you must be unemployed or have lost at least one day's employment and as a result be unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7 days. You may continue to get Jobseeker's Benefit if you can only find part-time or casual work.

Where a Jobseeker's Benefit recipient is working for part of a week, their entitlement will be based on a 5-day payment week. This means that for each day that a person is employed, 1/5th of the normal rate of Jobseeker's Benefit is deducted. If they get part-time work for 2 days, they will get 3/5ths of the normal Jobseeker's Benefit for that week and if they get part-time work for 3 days they will get 2/5ths of the normal rate of Jobseeker’s Benefit for the week. This change was implemented on 26 July 2012. You must still be unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7 to claim Jobseeker's Benefit. You can read FAQS about these changes.

There is an exemption from some of the rules for retained firefighters. More information is available about work and Jobseeker’s Benefit.

Social insurance (PRSI) contributions

To qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit, you must pay Class A, H or P PRSI contributions. Class A is the one paid by most private sector employees. Class H is paid by soldiers, reservists and temporary army nurses, who do not qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit until they have left the army. To qualify you need:

  • At least 104 weeks PRSI paid since you first started work

And

  • 39 weeks PRSI paid or credited in the relevant tax year (a minimum of 13 weeks must be paid contributions*)

Or

  • 26 weeks PRSI paid in the relevant tax year and 26 weeks PRSI paid in the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year.

*If you do not have 13 paid contributions in the relevant tax year, you must have paid 13 contributions in any of the following years:

  • The 2 tax years before the relevant tax year
  • The last complete tax year
  • The current tax year.

The Relevant Tax Year is the second last complete tax year before the year in which your claim is made. So, for claims made in 2014, the Relevant Tax Year is 2012.

There are a number of circumstances in which you can be awarded credited contributions. For example, pre-entry credits are given when you start employment for the first time in your working life. However, you can only qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit when you have actually paid 104 contributions. Credits are also awarded while you are getting certain social welfare payments, including Jobseeker's Benefit (provided it is for 6 days), Illness Benefit and, in some cases, Jobseeker's Allowance.

Contributions you have paid in other member states of the EU/EEA will be added to your Irish contributions. If you are applying for Jobseeker's Benefit and need the contributions paid in another EU/EEA country to help you qualify, then your last contribution must have been in Ireland.

Capable of work

You are capable of work unless you can prove otherwise. You must produce medical evidence to prove that you are not able to work. If you have been incapable of work for some time you must produce a final medical certificate to prove that you are now fit for work.

If you are ill and incapable of work you may be entitled to Illness Benefit. If you are pregnant you are considered to be capable of work unless you have complications during your pregnancy or you are ill. You can read more in our document on 'Pregnancy and social welfare payments'.

Available for and genuinely seeking work

You must be available for work and actively looking for work to qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit. You may be asked to show evidence that you are actively seeking work. For example, letters showing job applications or failure to get a job.

Unavailable for work

You can be regarded as not being available for work and not entitled to Jobseeker's Benefit, if you put unreasonable restrictions on the following:

  • The nature of the employment
  • The hours of work
  • Rate of pay
  • The duration of the employment
  • The location of the employment

In any case where a Deciding Officer is of the opinion that you have placed unreasonable restrictions, you will be interviewed and given the opportunity to respond.

If you are looking after a sick or elderly person you may be entitled to Carer's Benefit.

Loss of employment

You must have suffered a substantial loss of employment in any period of 7 consecutive days to be eligible for Jobseeker's Benefit (casual workers and retained firefighters with no other employment are exempt from this rule). This means that you must have lost at least one day's employment and as a result of this loss be unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7 days. Your earnings must also have been reduced because of the loss of employment. You may be disqualified from getting Jobseeker's Benefit for 9 weeks if you:

  • Left work voluntarily and without a reasonable cause
  • Lost your job through misconduct
  • Refused an offer of suitable alternative employment or suitable training - if you have been on a penalty rate of JB for at least 21 days
  • Are aged under 55 and get a redundancy payment of more than €50,000. The exact length of your disqualification (up to nine weeks) will depend on the amount of redundancy payment you received - see below.

Redundancy

If you are under 55 and get a redundancy payment of more than €50,000 you are disqualified from claiming Jobseeker's Benefit. The table below shows how long you may be disqualified for. The length of the disqualification is at the discretion of the deciding officer (who can take your circumstances into account). Any period of disqualification is subtracted from your total Jobseeker's Benefit entitlement. So if you are disqualified for 3 weeks (which is 18 days payment) your JB claim starts on day 19. Note that people who take voluntary redundancy and do not get a redundancy payment of over €50,000 can claim jobseeker's payments immediately.

Amount of redundancy payment Period of disqualification
€50,000.00 - €55,000 1 week
€55,000.01 - €60,000 2 weeks
€60,000.01 - €65,000 3 weeks
€65,000.01 - €70,000 4 weeks
€70,000.01 - €75,000 5 weeks
€75,000.01 - €80,000 6 weeks
€80,000.01 - €85,000 7 weeks
€85,000.01 - €90,000 8 weeks
€90,000.01 and over 9 weeks

On strike

If you are on strike, you are not considered unemployed and not entitled to Jobseeker's Benefit. However, your family may get Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

If you are out of work as a result of a strike (if, for example, you have been laid off), you are however in a different position. You may qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit if you are "not participating in or directly interested in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage at work".

Duration of Jobseeker's Benefit

The duration of Jobseeker's Benefit reduced by 3 months with effect from 3 April 2013. For people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid, it reduced from 12 months (312 days) to 9 months (234 days). For people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid, it reduced from 9 months (234 days) to 6 months (156 days).

If you are aged between 65 and 66 when your JB claim would end you can continue to claim it until you reach 66 if you meet certain conditions. See above for information about new administrative provisions for older jobseekers.

For new JB claimants from 4 April 2013
Number of contributions Duration of JB claim
260 or more 234 days (9 months)
Less than 260 156 days (6 months)

Re-qualifying for Jobseeker's Benefit

You can re-qualify for JB if:

  • You have used up your full JB entitlement (either 9 or 6 months)

    and

  • You have paid 13 PRSI contributions for at least 13 weeks (these contributions can be counted only after you have claimed at least 156 days (6 months) of JB)

However if you are working and claiming JB (systematic short-time workers and part-time workers) you cannot simply continue your JB claim when it is exhausted since you must have suffered a substantial loss of employment to re-qualify for JB, (unless you are a casual worker).

If you have lost your job you will have suffered a substantial loss of employment. If you are a part-time or systematic short-time worker DSP will look at your pattern of employment over the last 13 weeks or another representative period to find out whether you have suffered a substantial loss of employment.

For example, if you are getting JB and working 3 days each week as a systematic short-time worker or a part-time worker and your employment pattern has not changed during the course of your JB claim, you will not have suffered a substantial loss of employment and will not re-qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit when you exhaust your claim. However, if your JB claim ends and your 3 day week working week is then reduced to a 2 day week, you will have suffered a substantial loss of employment and may re-qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit.

Linking claims

If you claim JB for a period, sign off and then claim JB again within 26 weeks your claim may be linked to the earlier claim. This means that your claim is not treated as a new claim and:

  • You do not have to wait for 3 days before getting your payment
  • The cumulative total of days from the previous claim is continued (so, for example, if you have used up 100 days of your total JB entitlement of 234 days you have 134 days remaining on your claim)
  • The rate of JB is the same rate payable as on the previous claim, unless there has been a budgetary increase or change in family circumstances (such as a new child dependant).

If your JB claim does not link to a previous claim it is treated as a new claim. You must wait for 3 days before getting a payment and your cumulative total of days starts from the first day of payment.

You can read more about linking claims including information on linking to a different scheme (such as Illness Benefit) and linking to an earlier JB claim through a different scheme or period spent in training or on an employment scheme.

Short-term employment or training

The Department of Social Protection operates a fast-tracking system for people who sign off to take up work for a short period (up to 8 weeks) or to go on a short training course (up to 8 weeks). This ensures that your payment is re-instated without delay. It is important that you inform your local social welfare office in advance that you are taking up work or training. Your Rent Supplement or Mortgage Interest Supplement claim can also be suspended for up to 8 weeks.

Claiming for dependents with Jobseeker's Benefit

If your spouse’s, civil partner or cohabitant is dependent on you or is on a low income you may be able to claim an increase in your payment for him or her. This increase is called an Increase for a Qualified Adult (IQA). If your adult dependant is earning €100 or less you will get the maximum IQA. If he or she is earning between €100 and €310 you will get a reduced rate of IQA. If your adult dependant is earning more than €310 you will not get an increase in your Jobseeker’s Benefit for your adult dependant.

You can look at our documents on Claiming for an adult dependant and Jobseeker's Benefit and work to find out more. If you have dependant children you may also be able to claim an increase in your payment for them.

Work experience for jobseekers

JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme provides work experience for people who have been getting a jobseeker’s payment or signing for credits for at least 3 months. See our document on JobBridge. The Work Placement Programme provides 9 months’ work experience for graduates and other unemployed people. For more information contact your local employment services office.

Rates

Jobseeker's Benefit is not paid for the first 3 days you are unemployed (the first 3 days are any 3 days, not necessarily consecutive, in a period of 7 consecutive days).

If you are unemployed for a second time within 26 weeks of your last JB payment your application for Jobseeker's Benefit is not treated as a new claim and you do not have another 3 days of non-payment.

Weekly Jobseeker's Benefit payment in 2014

Average weekly earnings Personal rate Increase for a qualified adult Increase for a qualified child
Less than €150 €84.50

€80.90

€29.80

€150 - €219.99 €121.40
€220 - €299.99 €147.30
€300 or more €188 €124.80

You get a personal rate and may get an increase for an adult dependant and child dependant (see above). Your average weekly earnings do not affect the amount you get for a child dependent.

Average weekly earnings

Jobseeker's Benefit rates are graduated according to your earnings in the relevant tax year. Your average weekly earnings are your gross yearly earnings from employment divided by the number of paid A, H or P contributions in the relevant tax year.

The relevant tax year is 2 years before the year of your claim. For example, if you claim Jobseeker's Benefit in 2014 the relevant tax year is 2012. If you only qualify for a reduced JB payment, it may of greater benefit for you to claim Jobseeker's Allowance instead of Jobseeker's Benefit.

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.

Penalty rates of payment
Personal JB rate Reduction
€84.50 €65
€121.40 €93
€147.30 €113
€188 €144

Penalty rates will not apply to people over 62 from 1 January 2014.

Linking claims

In some cases, a current JB claim may be linked to an older claim (see above). If your JB claim is linked to a claim earlier than 2009 the following graduated rates apply:

For claims in 2014 linked to JB claims started before 2009:

Average weekly earnings Personal rate Qualified adult rate
Less than €80 €84.50 €80.90
€80 - €124.99 €121.40 €80.90
€125 - €149.99 €147.30 €80.90
€150 or more €188 €124.80

Getting paid

You can collect your Jobseeker's Benefit payment weekly from your nearest Post Office.

You must bring valid photographic identification (photo ID) with you to collect your payment. The following is regarded as valid photographic identification:

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

Taxation of Jobseeker's Benefit

Jobseeker's Benefit is taxable. However, if you are getting Jobseeker's Benefit because your normal working week has been reduced temporarily (systematic short-time work) your Jobseeker's Benefit is not taxed. If you are working part-time and getting Jobseeker’s Benefit for the days you are not employed your Jobseeker’s Benefit is taxable. Find out more about the taxation of Jobseeker's Benefit and the taxation of JB for systematic short-time workers.

Extra benefits

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

  • Rent Supplement - a payment under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.
  • Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance - an allowance designed to help towards 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. It covers you for free doctor's care, approved prescriptions etc. Contact your Local Health Office for more information.
  • School Book Scheme - each year the Department of Education and Skills provides grants to primary, secondary and comprehensive schools towards the cost of school books for students in financial need. You should contact the school principal for more information. The school principal will also advise you whether the school runs a book loan scheme, whereby your children's books are provided for a nominal rental charge each year.

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

How to apply

You should apply for Jobseeker's Benefit the first day you become unemployed.

It is important to apply on the first day you become unemployed because you will not get paid for the first 3 days of your claim.

Jobseeker's Benefit application forms are available online. You can also get an application form from your social welfare local office or Intreo centre.

You will also need to bring certain documents to prove your claim. You may find this list of documents you need when you apply for Jobseeker's Benefit useful. If you do not have these documents to hand, you should apply anyway and supply them later. You should remember that delay in applying for Jobseeker's Benefit may mean that you lose out on your full entitlements.

You can get help to fill in your application form at your social welfare local office or nearest Citizens Information Centre.

If you think you have been wrongly refused Jobseeker's Benefit you can appeal this decision.

More information about applying for Jobseeker’s Benefit is available in our document about signing on for the first time.

Where to apply

You should apply for Jobseeker's Benefit to your social welfare local office or Intreo centre.

If you wish to appeal a decision regarding the refusal of a social welfare payment, you should make this appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office using the contact information below.

Social Welfare Appeals Office

D'Olier House
D'Olier Street
Dublin 2
Ireland

Tel:(01) 673 2800
Locall:1890 747 434
Fax:(01) 671 8391
Homepage: http://www.socialwelfareappeals.ie/
Email: swappeals@welfare.ie


Further information

Half-rate Jobseeker's Benefit with another social welfare payment

People getting a Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Pension, a One-Parent Family Payment or a deserted wives payment and who met all the conditions for Jobseeker's Benefit, were entitled to half the normal rate of Jobseeker's Benefit. These half-rate payments were discontinued from February 2012.

Changes to duration of Jobseeker's Benefit

The duration of Jobseeker's Benefit reduced by 3 months with effect from 3 April 2013. For people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid, it reduced from 12 months (312 days) to 9 months (234 days). For people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid, it reduced from 9 months (234 days) to 6 months (156 days). Claimants getting Jobseeker's Benefit for 6 months or more on 3 April 2013 (or 3 months for people with fewer than 260 contributions) were not affected (see table below).

For people already claiming JB on or before 3 April 2013
Number of paid contributions Number of days claiming JB Maximum duration of JB claim Effect of change
260 or more 156 or more (6 months or more) 312 days (12 months) No change
260 or more Less than 156 (less than 6 months) 234 days (9 months) Claim duration reduces by 78 days (3 months)
Less than 260 78 or more (3 months) 234 days (9 months) No change
Less than 260 Less than 78 (less than 3 months) 156 days (6 months) Claim duration reduces by 78 days (3 months)

P45

If your employer does not issue you with a P45, it may be because you have not been registered for PRSI by your employer. It also could be that you have been registered but your employer has not paid the PRSI contributions which are due or has not paid the correct amount. Under the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 the employer is obliged to register all employees for PRSI. More information can be found in our document about your Employer's duty to pay social insurance.

Jobseeker's Benefit without a P45

If your former employer refuses to give you a P45 it can affect your application for Jobseeker's Benefit (JB). You should still apply for JB but the Department of Social Protection cannot pay JB to you until they verify your former employment.

If you do not have a P45, the Department may informally contact you employer at the time of your application for JB and request him/her to send you a P45 to help process your claim for JB. If this hasn't resulted in your former employer giving you your P45, you can ask to fill-in form IA49 at your local Social Welfare Office.

Form IA49 is a declaration stating that you believe your former employer did not comply with social insurance regulations. As a result of your declaration, there will be an investigation into your employer's payment of PRSI. Filling-in form IA49 may not result in your P45, however, it may help to determine if you qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit.

How to get your P45

If you are not given a P45 when you leave your job you should first ask your employer for it. If the employer does not supply it you should contact the tax office.

If you contact your tax office, Revenue will contact the employer and obtain your P45 for you. If you have started a new job, Revenue will send you a new tax credit certificate so you will not have to pay emergency tax in your new job. More information about how to get your P45 is available.

Page updated: 13 February 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.