Information for customers affected financially by coronavirus

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This is a difficult time for so many people.

We've tried to answer a couple of questions you might have if you're in employment and are ill or affected by coronavirus.

We've split this information into sections to make it easier for you to find what's relevant to you.

1 - Ill or self-isolating due to coronavirus


Employed


Assuming you cannot work from home:

  1. Are you entitled to contractual sick pay?
  2. Could you take annual leave instead?
  3. Check entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  4. Check entitlement to benefits (section 3)

Your rights to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) depend on your employment status and earnings.

If you’re an employee and earn at least £120 a week, you will be able to get £95.85 per week for up to 28 weeks. Normally you must be off for at least four days in a row, but the government has announced SSP will be paid from the first day you are off sick if it is related to coronavirus.

If your employer refuses to pay SSP, or is not paying you the full amount, you should contact the HM Revenue and Customs statutory payment dispute team:

Telephone: 03000 560 630

Monday to Thursday: 8.30am to 5pm

Friday: 8.30am to 4.30pm

Self-employed


If you’re self-employed, a contractor, work on a freelance basis, in the gig economy or on a zero hours contract, your rights to sick pay and time off are much more limited.

Unless it has been agreed as part of your contract, you will not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, sick leave or paid holiday leave.

If you are unable to get Statutory Sick Pay, you may be able to claim other benefits. See further below.

2 - Lost income due to coronavirus affecting employment


Employed


On Friday 20 March the government announced a job retention scheme employers can access to fund 80% of every employees wages up to £2,500 per month for three months initially, backdated to 1 March 2020. This will be available to employers who have ‘furloughed’ workers – i.e. they have retained them as employed but have no work for them. The scheme is intended to encourage employers to do this instead of making employees redundant.

Therefore, in the first instance please speak to your employer about whether they can retain you on these lower wages. Your employer can choose to top up your earnings to full pay but do not have to.

If you have been made redundant due to coronavirus affecting your employer’s business before this announcement, you may wish to discuss with your former employer about whether they can take you back on as a furloughed worker.

If you are furloughed on reduced pay, you may also be eligible for Universal Credit or an increase in current benefits or tax credits to top-up your loss of income.

Self-employed


On 26 March the government announced the self-employed will be able to claim a grant worth 80% of their trading profits from across 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 (max £2,500 per month) for at least three months, as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19 (you have until 23 April 2020 to file this)
  • traded in the tax year 2019-20
  • are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
  • more than half your income comes from self-employment
  • have trading profits of less than £50,000 in the 2018/19 year, or alternatively an average of less than £50,000 across the 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 years (if you started trading since April 2016, those returns you have filed will be taken into account).

The HMRC will be contacting those who could be eligible to invite them to claim the grant. The payment won’t be made until June at the earliest.

If you still need financial support before this date, you may need to consider claiming benefits (see below). Note that, whilst it is not yet clear, it is likely the grant will count as income for means-tested benefits.

3 - Benefits for working-age people


Am I entitled to benefits?


If you have lost income due to coronavirus and are in receipt of any means-tested benefits like Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support/Reduction, Universal Credit or Tax Credits, you should report your loss of income to the benefit offices managing your claim to see if your benefits can be increased. You may also be able to claim additional benefits – see below for a list.

Free school meals vouchers

The government has announced a scheme for parents who are entitled to free school meals to access support when their child cannot attend school. Free school meals are generally available for those on means-tested benefits: click here for more information and how to apply. To access the vouchers, you should contact your child’s school.

Note the government has announced a one-year increase to the rates of Universal Credit, Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits worth £1,000 starting from 6 April 2020. This means more people will be entitled to some help than before.

If you are not claiming any benefits and have lost income, then you may be able to make a new claim for one or several of the benefits below:

4 - Benefits for pensioners


If you (and your partner if you have one) have reached your state pension age, you may be able to claim Pension Credit (which provides an income top-up) and Housing Benefit (for help with rent) instead.

To claim Pension Credit, call 0800 99 1234

To claim Housing Benefit, contact your local authority.

If you are a couple and one of you is over their pension age and one is under, and you get Pension Credit or Housing Benefit, then you may be able to make a claim for the other. However, if you get neither, then you will need to consider the other benefits listed further above.

5 - Seek advice


For further advice, our Benefit and Money Advice team may be able to help.

Visit their dedicated page to find out more.