Universal Credit

Guide

Universal Credit is a payment for working-age people who are on a low income or are out of work. To get Universal Credit, a person must be aged 18 or over (16 or 17 in certain circumstances) and be under State Pension age. It will be paid twice a month and includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, as well as financial support for disabled people, carers and people who are too sick to work.

Universal Credit replaces:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance (income based)
  • Employment Support Allowance (income related)
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

Universal Credit was introduced for new claims in Northern Ireland between 27 September 2017 and December 2018. 

People claiming any of the six benefits that Universal Credit replaced, who have a change of circumstances, may need to move to Universal Credit from the date of the change of circumstances.

People who do not have a change of circumstances will be advised by the Department for Communities when it is time for them to move to Universal Credit.

EEA or Swiss citizens living in Northern Ireland

British or Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and receiving social security benefits or State Pension when the UK leaves the EU on 1 January 2021 will continue to receive their benefit payments. They do not need to do anything.

EEA or Swiss citizens living in Northern Ireland before 31 December 2020 can only access social security benefits if they have been granted settled status or pre-settled status. Even if they have permanent residency they need to apply for EU settled status before the deadline of 30 June 2021. Read more on the EU Settlement Scheme.

Impact on employers

You may find that some of your existing employees will start to receive Universal Credit or you may recruit someone who is receiving it.

Universal Credit is designed to deal with changes in earnings, allowing claimants to receive it when they are both in and out of work. Universal Credit will gradually decrease as earnings increase until wages reach a point that allows the claimant to leave Universal Credit.

Download the Universal Credit information pack for employers (PDF, 826K).

Benefits of Universal Credit for employers

As an employer, you will find that Universal Credit:

  • makes it easier to fill any job by enabling unemployed people to consider short term or irregular work
  • allows existing staff to work different patterns to meet the peaks and troughs without the overheads associated with recruiting and training new staff
  • is based on earnings and not hours worked, offering more flexibility for staff to increase their hours
  • enables recruitment from a wider pool of applicants

This provides potential employees with the opportunity to take temporary or seasonal jobs without worrying about making a brand new claim or any gaps between paydays as they move in and out of work.

Download details on how Universal Credit can help your business (PDF, 49K).

Additional information on Universal Credit