Housing benefit on a zero hour contract or variable income

If you have a zero hours contract or work varying hours, the housing benefit office should work out your average income to calculate how much housing benefit you are entitled to.  

Working out your housing benefit

Unless the benefit cap or the bedroom tax applies, you are entitled to the maximum housing benefit if you receive:

  • income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • income support

This might still be less than your rent. You can apply for a discretionary housing payment to make up any shortfall.

If you don't get any of these benefits and your income changes frequently, the housing benefit office at the council works out your average wage when deciding how much housing benefit you should receive.

Your average wage is calculated based on:

  • five payments if you are paid weekly
  • three payments if you are paid every two weeks
  • two payments if you are paid monthly

Your council should calculate your earnings over a longer period if this produces a fairer result.

The council might give you a form for your employer to record how much your average wage is expected to be. They can do this if you haven't been paid yet or you don't have enough payslips to calculate your average income.

Report your changing income

You usually don't have to report every change in your income if the council works out an average wage to calculate your housing benefit because your wages vary.

But you must report changes that mean that your average income is likely to go up or down.

Ask your local council to confirm in writing:

  • which changes you should report
  • how often you should provide proof of earnings

Some councils allow online or email submissions. You can also post information or deliver it by hand.

If your income is always changing you should tell the council at least every four weeks what you have been paid.

If you don't report the changes, you could be paid too much housing benefit and you'll have to pay this money back.

Keep records

Make sure you keep detailed records of your earnings. This helps you submit accurate records and avoid overpayments or underpayments.

Keep your payslips, P60s and P45s in a safe place. Get a folder and file your records in date order. Note which ones you have submitted to your council.

Keep copies of anything you send to the council as proof.

Claim other benefits if you work

Use the Turn2Us Benefit Calculator to check your entitlement to other benefits or tax credits

Help with budgeting

Managing an income that goes up and down is a challenge.

Use the Money Advice Service's online Budget Planner to help

Still need help?

Search for your nearest Citizens Advice service

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person

Last updated 10 Jun 2016 | © Shelter

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