Information for customers affected financially by coronavirus

Image

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 4)
  5. Check if you are entitled to the £500 self-isolation grant (see below)

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.

£500 self-isolation grant

The government has made a £500 grant available via local authorities for some people who have been told to self-isolate. To qualify you have to meet the following criteria:

  • You have been told to self-isolate, either because:
    • You have tested positive for covid-19
    • NHS Track and Trace contacted you to say you have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for covid-19
  • You’re employed or self-employed
  • You are unable to work from home
  • You will lose income as a result
  • You are entitled to at least one of the following benefits:
    • Housing Benefit
    • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
    • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
    • Income Support
    • Pension Credit
    • Universal Credit
    • Working Tax Credit

To apply you need to contact your local authority (council).

If you do not get one of the benefits listed above but meet the other criteria and feel you will still suffer financial hardship, you may also be eligible but this is at the discretion of the local authority.




2 - Lost income due to coronavirus affecting employment


Employed - income replacement scheme


If your employer has no work for you, they can lay you off temporarily – this is known as ‘furloughing’.

Since March 2020, employers have been able to apply to the HMRC for funding for 80% of a furloughed employee's wages, up £2,500 per month, which they must then pay to the employee (Note this was 70% in September and 60% in October). The employer can choose to top it up to full salary if they wish to but do not have to.

This scheme was due to stop at the end of October 2020 but is now continuing into up to March 2021 at 80%. Employers can ‘flexibly furlough’, which means you can be working reduced hours or none at all and still have your earnings topped up to 80%. If your earnings are variable, an average of your earnings or how much you earned the same month a year ago are used to work out your entitlement.

If your income has been reduced you may be entitled to claim benefits or have them increase if you are already entitled to them. You should report your change in earnings to the relevant benefit offices. If you need help contact our Welfare Benefits Advice team via our Customer Contact Line.

Self-employed - Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

If you are self-employed and your income has been affected due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for apply for the SEISS grant if you meet all the following criteria:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
  • 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 should have contacted those who could be eligible to invite them to claim the grant. Applications for the first two grants have now closed. Two further grants will be made available to cover the November 2020 to April 2021 in due course.

The first of these grants will pay 80% of average profits to cover November, December and January. Further details about the second grant are awaited.

The grants will be taxable and will be treated as self-employment income by means-tested benefits. This means that you may still be entitled to means-tested benefits even if you have been receiving these grants. Note that if you are claiming Universal Credit, the grants will count as income during the month in which you receive the grant, but may affect entitlement in future months too, depending on how much you received.


3 - Redundancy


If you think your employer may be considering letting you go due to not needing your role any more, or has already made you redundant, you might find it useful to read these guides on the Money Advice Service website.

You may also be entitled to claim benefits – see below and/or get in touch with our benefits advice team for help.

4 - 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 – contact our Benefits team for advice (and there is a list below).

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. However please be aware that if you get this extra money it may stop from April 2021, unless the government announces otherwise.

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 due to coronavirus. 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.

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:



5 - 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 or you can claim online, unless you do not receive a state pension or you are claiming for dependent children, at https://apply-for-pension-credit.dwp.gov.uk/start

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.

6 - Seek advice


For further advice, our Financial Wellbeing team may be able to help.

Visit their dedicated page to find out more.