Welfare benefits when living with a lung condition

Benefits for people unable to work

There are two types of benefits that you could be eligible for if you cannot work because of your illness – Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). SSP is for absences from work up to 28 weeks and ESA is for longer term absences or where SSP is not payable. 

You may be entitled to benefits if you:

  • have care or mobility needs because of your lung condition
  • cannot work due to your lung condition
  • are thinking of giving up work because of your lung condition
  • care for someone with a lung condition

Having a lung condition doesn’t entitle you to welfare benefits. Benefits depend on how your lung condition affects your care or mobility needs, or your ability to work.

If you’re unsure what you’re entitled to and want to talk to someone, please call our helpline on 03000 030 555.


Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If you’re too ill to work, your employer will pay you SSP for up to 28 weeks.

To be eligible you must:

  • work for your employer under a contract of service
  • earn above £118 - the earnings threshold before tax and national insurance (find out more at gov.uk)
  • be sick for at least four days in a row

Once SSP ends, if you’re still too sick to return to work, you may be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).


Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can be paid if you’re too ill to work. You must go to a Work Capability Assessment while your ESA is being assessed.

There are 3 types of ESA:

  • new style, if you’re entitled to claim Universal credit
  • contributory ESA, which will depend on your national insurance contributions
  • income-related ESA, which is the means-tested element. It can depend on how much household income you have.

Your capability to work should be assessed in the first 13 weeks of your claim for ESA. Usually you will have to travel to a centre to be assessed. If you spend money on travelling to an assessment centre, you can claim these costs back. Bring your ticket or receipts with you if you travel by bus or train. You can claim 25p per mile if you come by car – plus parking costs, so bring the parking ticket too. If you want to claim back the fares of anyone who has to travel with you, let the Health Assessment Advisory Service know in advance by calling 0800 288 8777.

After this assessment, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will place you in:

  • the work-related activity group, where you will be expected to try to find employment and have regular interviews with an adviser or
  • the support group, where you will not be expected to look for employment as your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work. The support group pays an extra amount on top of the basic rate of ESA.

If the DWP decides you are fit to work straightaway, they can advise you to apply for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). By doing this you have to declare yourself fit for work. Ask a welfare rights adviser such as Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) about applying for JSA. JSA is broken down into contribution-based and income-based allowance.

For details on how to appeal a decision you are unhappy with, call our helpline on 03000 030 555.


Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment that is meant to help with living costs for those who have a low income or are out of work.

Universal Credit is one benefit that replaces child tax credit, working tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income related JSA and income related ESA.

The amount you’ll get depends on your circumstances and income. It can include support:

  • for housing
  • for children and childcare
  • if you’re disabled or have a health condition
  • if you care for someone with a disability

It is paid monthly. It can be paid if you are working or not. Your payment will reduce gradually as you earn more.

Find out whether you could be eligible for Universal Credit by using Citizens Advice eligibility checker.


Do you live in Northern Ireland?

If you live in Northern Ireland, for more information please call our helpline on 03000 030 555.

Or take a look at the NI Direct page and the AdviceNI pages. You can also call the Benefit Enquiry Line 0800 232 1271 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm or email [email protected]


Are you unsure if you are entitle to benefits, or looking for information on different benefits? Read more here >

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Download our welfare information (PDF, 270KB)

Last medically reviewed: December 2019. Due for review: December 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.