What you are entitled to and how to claim during the Coronavirus crisis
As the UK is currently on a Coronavirus lockdown and construction sites are now starting to close its gates, many workers and their families are now increasingly concerned about where its income is going to come from over the coming weeks and possibly months.
With help from The Money Advice Service, we have tried to put together an easily digestible list of information and resources to help you and your family overcome this Coronavirus crisis.
Health over wealth
First and foremost the health of you and your family should be your number one priority right now. If you have any symptoms of coronavirus such as a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath, it is important you follow the NHS guidelines to protect yourself and prevent the spread of the virus.
If you have a persistent cough, fever or flu-like symptoms you must self-isolate yourself for seven days.
If you’re employed
The government has announced it will pay your wages through the coronavirus job retention scheme if the business you work for is forced to temporarily close because of coronavirus.
The scheme is available to anyone who is PAYE. Your employer will need to contact HMRC to apply. In order for you to qualify, your employer will have to re-assign your employment status as a furloughed worker’.
The scheme will pay 80 percent of retained workers’ salaries, up to £2,500 a month. Your employer can top up your salary to more than this if they choose to.
Wages under the scheme will be backdated to 1 March and the scheme will be open for at least three months. There is no limit on the amount of funding and the government will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary.
The first of the grants are hoped to be paid before the end of April so it could take a few weeks to get your money.
But I have already been laid off!
If your boss has already informed you that your job is gone, you should contact them to see if they are now willing to take you back on and reassign you as a furloughed worker.
If you have already received a redundancy payment and your employer could now take you back on, speak to your employer or the ACAS helpline for advice on what to do.
‘I am not risking it’, I don’t want to work because of the virus
If you don’t want to travel or go into work because you’re worried about catching coronavirus, unfortunately, ‘you’re between a rock and a hard place’ as your rights are more limited.
Your boss is required to listen to your concerns and try and find a way to work around them. You may also be able to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave.
If you are struggling to pay your bills see this guide from the Money Advice Service.
What about Sick Pay?
Your rights to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) depend on your employment status and earnings.
If you earn at least £118 a week (£120 from 6 April 2020), you will be able to get £94.25 per week (£95.85 from 6 April 2020) for up to 28 weeks. The government has announced SSP will be paid from the first day you are off sick if it is related to coronavirus.
SSP covers you both if you’re ill and if you need to self isolate because you have been in direct contact with the virus. You will still need to provide a sick note or fit note. You no longer have to go to a doctor to get a sick note or fit note. You can get one by calling NHS 111.
Some employers have more generous contractual sick pay schemes. It is worth checking your contract, staff handbook or with your employer.
The government has said that it will bear the costs of SSP for smaller employers, so claiming it should not be a problem. If you do have a problem, contact the HM Revenue and Customs statutory payment dispute team on 03000 560 630
If you earn less than £118 a week
If you’re employed but your earnings are too low to claim SSP, you may be able to claim Universal Credit. You can do this online.
Don’t delay making a claim for benefits, even if you think you might have been affected by coronavirus.
However, if you are already getting any of these benefits being replaced by Universal Credit:
- Housing Benefit
- Tax Credits
- Income Support
- Employment and Support Allowance
and need to make a claim for Universal Credit because of coronavirus, check with the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service as soon as possible to find out how they might be affected and to get advice about your situation. If you’re in Scotland, visit the Citizens Advice Scotland website
If you’re self-employed (Updated)
The government launched the self-employed income support scheme on Thursday 27 March. To be eligible, you must earn more than half your income from self-employment, have submitted a tax return for 2018/19 and have:
- a trading profit of less than £50,000 for 2018/19, or
- an average trading profit of less than £50,000 for the tax year 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.
If you qualify the government will pay you a grant for 80 per cent of your monthly profits, up to £2,500 a month for three months.
You will get a lump sum payment and it is understood these will start at the beginning of June.
Payments will be backdated to the start of March and cover a three-month period to the end of May. The government has said the scheme might be extended.
HMRC will use your average trading profits from 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 to work out the size of your grant.
It is a taxable grant, so you will have to declare it on your Self Assessment tax return and might have to pay income tax and National Insurance on it.
If you made a self-employed income during the 2018/19 tax year, but have not submitted a Self Assessment tax return yet, you have four weeks to submit one.
This scheme is open to sole traders and members of partnerships.
If you pay yourself a salary and dividends through a company, you will not be eligible, but might be helped by the coronavirus job retention scheme if you’re earning through PAYE.
If you’ve become self-employed since April 2019, you will not be eligible.
If you are not eligible for this grant, you will still be able access other government support, including benefits and business support grants.
How can I claim this grant?
You do not need to contact HMRC. HMRC will check eligibility against existing information and will contact you about making an online application. It is unclear when this process will start.
Look out for scams
This scheme is likely to be targeted by scammers claiming to be from HMRC. At the moment it is not clear how or when HMRC will contact you about this. But the Money Advice Service says if you’re self-employed you should have already received an email from HMRC explaining the scheme and telling you there is no reason to contact HMRC about this.
If you are contacted by email, phone or text by someone claiming to be from HMRC at this time offering you the income support grant, tax refund or any other financial help, this is a scam!