Conditions for getting a jobseeker's payment
Jobseeker’s Allowance and Jobseeker’s Benefit are payments for people who are unemployed and looking for work. To get either of these jobseeker’s payments you must meet certain conditions or requirements. If you do not meet these conditions you can be refused a payment, be disqualified from getting a payment for a period or be paid a reduced rate of your payment.
You should also read our documents on the payments for detailed information about each payment. For example, in the case of Jobseeker’s Allowance you must also meet the means test criteria and the habitual residence condition while to qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit you must have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions and have suffered a substantial loss of employment.
If your employment (or self-employment) has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, or if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick, read our document on COVID-19 (coronavirus) and social welfare payments.
Conditions for jobseeker's payments
To qualify for a jobseeker’s payment you must be under 66 years of age. You must be 18 years or over to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. People under 18 do not qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit.
You must also be:
- Unemployed (you must be fully unemployed or unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7)
- Capable of work
- Available for work
- Genuinely seeking work
While you are getting a jobseeker’s payment you must attend meetings and take part in appropriate employment schemes, training or work experience if requested by the Department of Social Protection (DSP). See ‘Sanctions for not meeting the conditions of your jobseeker’s payment’ below.
To get a jobseeker’s payment you must be unemployed for at least 4 days out of 7. This means that you can work for up to 3 days in a 7-day period and still qualify for a jobseeker’s payment for the days you are not working. You can also take up to two weeks’ holiday in a year and continue to get your payment.
However, some people work the equivalent of full-time hours by doing intensive shifts. It is usual for the Department of Social Protection to treat people who work 3Department of Social Protection6 hours or over in a week as being in full-time employment. However, people who work a lower number of hours (perhaps as low as 30 hours depending on the job) in a week may also be treated as being in full-time employment. People in full-time employment do not qualify for a jobseeker’s payment.
If you can only find part-time work or if your employer reduces your days at work to 3 days a week or less, you may get a jobseeker’s payment for the other days. You must meet the other conditions that apply to the payment, for example, you must continue to look for full-time work. In the case of Jobseeker’s Allowance, any income from work is assessed in the means test. Read about:
Retained firefighters and jobseeker’s payments
If you are employed as a part-time retained firefighter, you may qualify for a jobseeker’s payment. People who are working as part-time fire fighters do not have to sign off for the days they are on call, firefighting or training. This means that you can be paid a jobseeker’s payment for days that you are on call, firefighting or training. Retained firefighters must live within 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) of the fire station and commit to being ready for firefighting duties in 5 minutes. This requirement in itself is not considered a restriction on your availability for work, so long as you are satisfying the conditions of the scheme. The Department of Social Protection requires you to be available for full-time work and you must not restrict your search for employment to the 2.4km limit.
If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance the income you receive will be assessed in the normal way and any means will be set against your payment.
If you had a previous Jobseeker’s Benefit claim you can requalify for JB once you pay 13 PRSI contributions assuming you satisfy all the other conditions. The substantial loss condition does not apply to the employment as a firefighter. However, if you have other employment then the substantial loss condition applies to that other employment.
You may be able to do voluntary work and continue to get a jobseeker’s payment. You must continue to satisfy the conditions of the payment, which means that you must be available and looking for full-time work. You must also get permission from a Deciding Officer at your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office. Find out more about voluntary work and social welfare payments.
If you are on strike, you will not be considered unemployed and will not get a jobseeker’s payment. However, if you are out of work as a result of a strike, for example, you have been laid off because of the strike you may get a jobseeker’s payment. You may get a jobseeker’s payment if you are "not participating in or directly interested in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage at work". If you are on strike your family may get basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance.
Capable of work
You must be capable of work to qualify for a jobseeker’s payment. You are considered capable of work unless you can produce medical evidence to prove that you are not able to work. If you have spent some time incapable of work 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 Disability Allowance or 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 work
You are considered available for work if:
- You state that you are available for work
- You do all that is asked to show compliance with this availability condition
- There is no evidence to suggest the contrary
Essentially, the Department of Social Protection considers that you are available for work if you are prepared to accept any offers of suitable employment immediately. In addition, the employment must be suitable, having regard to your age, sex, physique, education, normal occupation, where you live, rate of pay offered and your family circumstances.
However you can be regarded as not being available for work and therefore not entitled to a jobseeker’s payment if you put unreasonable restrictions on the following:
- The nature of the employment
- The hours of work
- The rate of pay
- The duration of the employment
- The location of the employment
If a Deciding Officer thinks that you have placed unreasonable restrictions, you will be interviewed and given the opportunity to respond. Note that if you refuse a suitable offer of work you can be disqualified from a jobseeker’s payment.
For example, you are considered unavailable for work in the following circumstances:
- You are looking for a particular type of work only.
- You state that you are looking for part-time work only. However, if you cannot get suitable full-time employment, you can still accept part-time work.
- You are only available during hours which are not typical of the employment you are looking for, for example, looking for clerical office work in evenings only.
- You are unwilling to take up an offer of reasonable short-time employment, for example, relief work or employment under a short-term contract.
- You move to a location where your prospects of getting suitable employment are significantly reduced. However, the reasons for the move will be taken into account.
- You are placing unreasonable restrictions on the distance which you are willing to travel to find work. However, access to public and private transport is taken into account.
- You may also be asked about your responsibilities at home, for example, who is looking after your child dependents. This question must be asked of both male and female applicants.
If you are looking after a sick or older person and are not available for work you may be entitled to a carer’s payment.
Genuinely looking for work
You must also show that you are genuinely looking for work. A day is not treated as a day of unemployment unless on that day you are genuinely seeking suitable full-time work. If you are in part-time employment and getting a jobseeker's payment you must show that you are trying to get full-time employment on the days you are not working.
You must be able to show that you are making genuine efforts to secure employment. You need to provide examples of such steps. Steps which would indicate that you are considered to be genuinely seeking work may include:
- Making oral or written applications for work
- Looking for information on the availability of employment from employers, advertisements and employment agencies
- Taking up reasonable training opportunities
- Acting on the advice given by a DSP Case Officer or other placement agency such as the Local Employment Service (LES)
- Taking positive, well advised steps towards establishing yourself in self-employment such as researching possible areas of self-employment
- Preparing business plans for a self-employment project
- Attending relevant "start your own business" courses or seeking information, advice or guidance in relation to any of these steps
Sanctions for not meeting the conditions of your jobseeker’s payment
You can be refused a jobseeker’s payment if you do not meet all the conditions that apply to the payment. You can be disqualified from a payment for a period of time in certain circumstances. You can also have your payment reduced (and subsequently stopped altogether for a period of time) if you do not attend meetings or participate in appropriate employment schemes, training or work experience.
Disqualification from a jobseeker’s payment
You may be disqualified from getting a jobseeker’s payment for up to 9 weeks if you:
- Left work voluntarily and without just cause
- Lost your job through misconduct
- Refused or failed to engage with activation measures where a penalty rate applied (see below)
You can be disqualified from Jobseeker’s Benefit if you are aged under 55 and get a redundancy payment of more than €50,000. The exact length of your disqualification (up to 9 weeks) will depend on the amount of redundancy payment you receive.
You can also be disqualified from a jobseeker’s payment if you do not co-operate with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s identity checking procedures for issuing you with a Public Services Card.
Reduction in payment
When you apply for a jobseeker’s payment you will be asked to sign a Record of Mutual Commitments (pdf) which explains your rights and responsibilities while you are getting your jobseeker’s payment from the Department of Social Protection.
Depending on your personal profile, you may be given an appointment for a further meeting with a DSP Case Officer. At this meeting your Case Officer will discuss your options with you and agree your Personal Progression Plan to prepare you to find employment. You will get ongoing advice and support to help you meet the goals in your Personal Progression Plan. You can read about the employment services the Department of Social Protection offers to jobseekers.
If you do not keep to the steps agreed in the Record of Mutual Commitments and the other conditions of your jobseeker’s payment, your payment can be reduced and eventually stopped altogether. Specifically you can be paid a penalty rate of JA or JB if you refuse or fail to:
- Attend meetings requested by the DSP or
- Participate in an appropriate employment support scheme, work experience or training
If you have been placed on a penalty rate and you continue not to meet the conditions you can be disqualified from your jobseeker’s payment for up to 9 weeks. You cannot be disqualified immediately – a penalty rate must apply first for at least 21 days.
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Penalty rates do not apply to people over 62.
If you wish to appeal a decision (including a decision on a penalty rate) you should make this appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office using the contact information below.
Where to apply
If your employment (or self-employment) has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, or if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick, read our document on COVID-19 and social welfare payments.
You apply for Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance to your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.