Employed During COVID-19? Support Available and How to Claim
***The government has made some changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme since we posted this blog. Please see our crucial furlough updates mini-blog.***
In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the chancellor announced a package of measures to help the employed, self-employed and businesses.
It’s been just over two weeks since they started being announced, but there’s still some confusion about what’s available, who can claim and how you go about this.
We’ve collated some of the key aspects of government support that you could be eligible for.
If you’re reading this and you’re self-employed or a director of a limited company, feel free to read on, but there’ll be a specific blog to help you very soon.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
If you’ve heard the word ‘furloughed’, it relates to a government package called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It provides the greatest level of support to you during these challenging times, so I’ll cover it first.
It’s available where your employer can’t operate or there’s no work for you to do because of Coronavirus.
It can also cover your caring responsibilities at home, whether this be caring for someone vulnerable in your household or caring for children who are at home due to school or childcare facilities closing.
You remain on the payroll and can get at least 80% of your salary, up to £2,500 per month. It also covers zero-hour contracts.
Your employer made you redundant. What next?
If you were made redundant by your employer after February 28th, they can still re-employ you and place you on furlough instead.
Remember, this is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It’s there to protect you and your employer: You can keep earning and remain on the payroll, and they can retain staff during a challenging period for them as a business.
Don’t forget, your employer must pay you at least 80% of your monthly earnings up to £2,500 per month. They could choose to pay you more, but they cannot pay you less.
What’s the catch?
There are some rules.
You must have been on your employer’s payroll by 28th February 2020.
You must be placed on furlough for a minimum of 3 weeks and a maximum of 3 months (this could be extended).
When furloughed you’re not able to work for your employer (there are some exceptions such as undertaking training and volunteer work).
If you’re still able to work for your employer (e.g. from home), this scheme won’t apply to you and you’ll still be working and earning your normal wage.
It doesn’t apply to you if you’re self-employed, but there’ll be another blog available to discuss support for you soon.
Your employer can still make you redundant during and after furloughing and if you refuse furlough from your employer, you could be at risk of redundancy or termination of employment. Normal rules and protections will apply to this, though.
So, what do you need to do?
Try to maintain an open dialogue with your employer. Ask and inform them about furloughing where it applies.
Redundancies have happened, some before and some after the scheme’s introduction, as employers worried about how they’d survive as a business.
Some of these could have been – and still can be – prevented through government support, but employers may not have known – and still may not know – about the help available to them.
Statutory Sick Pay
If you’re unable to work because of sickness, you can receive statutory sick pay (SSP).
You can also claim if you are caring for someone or staying at home because of Coronavirus.
SSP is £95.85 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. You may have a greater entitlement in your job so it’s important to talk with your employer.
Because of Coronavirus, you can now be paid from day 1 instead of day 4. This applies retrospectively to March 13th. If you need to claim and are eligible, speak with your employer.
How do you claim?
Simply contact your employer. This is a legal benefit that you are entitled to.
What if you’re ineligible for SSP?
You won’t be eligible for SSP if you earn below £118 per week or are self-employed, but you will be able to claim universal credit or new-style employment and support allowance.
That’s also now payable from day 1 if you are advised to stay home or have Coronavirus.
As of the new tax year (6th April), universal credit and working tax credit have both increased by £20 per week for 1 year on top of the normal annual uplift.
You may be able to claim support for rent costs through universal credit, too. This is available for both those in and out of work, if you meet the eligibility criteria.
How do you claim?
You can apply for universal credit online. Sometimes this is followed by a telephone appointment, but they’ll let you know if they need to speak with you on the phone.
Make sure you attend the phone appointment, or they may deny your application.
If you need any further information, try to use government sources as they will be the most up-to-date and accurate. We’ve covered some of the key points, but there will be scenarios we haven’t covered above. We’ve therefore listed some key webpages below:
If you need any advice or guidance, our (now remotely-operating) doors are always open.