For the latest medical advice, visit NHS.uk/Coronavirus.
Statutory Sick Pay
In the Budget on Wednesday 11th March, changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Benefit Measures were announced to ensure you are not penalised for doing the right thing in self-isolating. These change have already come into effect and will:
- Extend Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to those who are self-isolating in line with Government health guidance.
- Adjust the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) rules to ensure you are entitled to money from day 1, and those who are self-employed are supported, including in the gig-economy, to receive welfare payments for periods of self-isolation.
This change helps to provide certainty that (if eligible) you are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay if you are following government advice in relation to coronavirus. This includes if you are self isolating as a precautionary measure without symptoms.
If you are on a zero hour contract, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. This will depend how many hours you have worked regularly and income received, but you should contact your employer directly to find out more.
For more details on Statutory Sick Pay, click here.
Test and Trace Support Payment
From the 28th September, those on lower incomes who are required by NHS Test and Trace to self isolate and cannot work from home will be supported by a £500 payment.
Employment and Support Allowance
These changes also mean that if you are affected by Coronavirus, will be able to access the benefit system without the need for medical evidence or to attend a work capability assessment. The seven waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance for new claims will not apply. It will be payable from day one.
These changes will ensure that if you are affected by Coronavirus, work search and work availability requirements within Universal Credit are switched off. They will also provide access to other support within Universal Credit, such as a work allowance and childcare support for if you have a partner who is still able to work. If you are self-employed, you will also not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time within Universal Credit.
The Government are increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance, for the next 12 months, by £1,000 a year.
Working Tax Credit
The Government are increasing Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months.
For those in difficulty due to coronavirus, the Government are introducing a three month mortgage holiday–so that people will not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage while they get back on their feet.
These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why the Government are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.
They are also extending the three month mortgage payment holiday to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. These measures will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they needs at this very difficult time.
Local Housing Allowance will increase to cover at least 30 per cent of market rents in local areas.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Government have launched the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to step in and help pay people’s wages. Any employer in the country who promises to retain their staff, can apply for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off.
Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – above the median income.
The cost of wages will be backdated to 1st March and will be open initially for at least three months – and we will extend the scheme for longer if necessary. The scheme has now been extended until the end of April 2021.
From July, businesses can bring furloughed employees back part time. This is a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work. Employers will be able to claim the furlough grant for the proportion of the employees’ normal hours they are not working – but they must pay their employees for the hours they are working. The Government will continue to pay 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500, plus employer National Insurance and pension contribution.
From August, the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. The government will pay 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, but employers will start paying employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
From September, the government will pay 70 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,190. Employers will be asked to pay the remaining 10 per cent, in addition to employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
From October, the government will pay 60 per cent of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will be asked to pay the remaining 20 per cent, in addition to employer National Insurance and pension contributions
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will now remain open until the end of April 2021, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500.
Customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit can speak to their supplier about options to keep them supplied. This will benefit over 4 million customers and could include nominating a third party for credit top ups, having a discretionary fund added to their credit, or being sent a pre-loaded top up card so that their supply is not interrupted.
More broadly, any energy customer in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier, which could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary, while disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.
Customers that are unable to top up their pre-payment meter are advised to contact their supplier immediately to discuss how they can be kept on supply. Ofgem recommends consumers leave the meter box unlocked if they need someone else to top up the meter. Smart meter customers should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.
OFGEM have put together a brief guide setting out the help available and where to find advice on managing debt and budgeting which can be found here.
On 17 March the Financial Conduct Authority called on firms to use the flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account customers’ individual circumstances.
Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect. It is very important that anyone having difficulty paying back personal loans or credit as a result of COVID-19 talks to their lender.
Where payment holidays as a result of COVID-19 are agreed with a lender, they are expected to record these in such a way that will not impact on people’s credit score.
If you are facing any difficulties paying household bills or repayment commitments, loans and mortgages due to the pandemic, you can get help.
The Government has announced that vehicles which would usually require an MOT test will be exempt from needing a test for 6 months from 30 March 2020.
The Government are temporarily scrapping stamp duty on all homes under £500,000 to catalyse the housing market and boost confidence – helping to drive growth and create jobs.
From 9 July 2020 until 31 March 2021, the Government are increasing the threshold at which stamp duty applies from £125,000 to £500,000. This will mean 90 per cent of people getting on or moving up the property ladder will pay no stamp duty at all – equating to an average saving of £4,500.
You can find out more about Government measures for support here.