Your rights outlined
What you can do if you have lost income in the crisis
The coronavirus crisis has shut many workplaces and forced the government to make big changes to the benefits system to support those unable to work. The self-employed have been told they can expect more help, but most announcements have focused on employees and anyone unable to work because they are ill. Depending on which category you are in, here are your current rights.
As an employee I’ve been sent home
Some employers have told workers they will pay them as usual, at least for the next few weeks. If so, and if you do not usually receive benefits, you will not need to make a claim.
Other employers are not able to meet the costs themselves. It is their workers who will be covered by the government’s pledge to cover 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month. This will be claimed by employers and distributed to staff, so you will not need to do anything yourself. It will be up to employers to decide whether to make up the difference.
The money has yet to be paid to companies – the Treasury has said it will be paid “within weeks”. It will last up to three months and will be backdated to 1 March 2020.
I’ve had my hours or days cut
The scheme to meet 80% of pay applies to workers whose jobs have been put on hold, but there is an entitlement to “guarantee pay” for those who have had their hours cut.
This is worth up to £29 a day but is typically limited to five days in any three-month period. No change to this has been announced.
I was on a zero-hours contract
The pledge to meet 80% of wages applies to everyone on PAYE. But it is not clear what the 80% will be based on. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has said that it will probably involve some kind of smoothing of earnings – it could be an average of recent weeks’ pay.
I’ve been made redundant
The pay pledge is meant to stop staff losing their jobs so that eventually as many as possible can return to work. If your employer has made you redundant despite this, they cannot ignore your usual rights.
The company may have a policy of its own that is more generous than the statutory minimum. If not – and if you have worked for your current employer for at least two years – you should be entitled to:
• Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22.
• One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41.
• One and a half weeks’ pay for each full year you were 41 or older.
This is calculated for you at gov. uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay.
I’ve lost all my self-employed work
The chancellor has said he is working on measures for the self-employed. So far, he has said he will delay the date at which self-assessment tax payments are due. If you were due to pay a second instalment by 31 July you can now do it by 31 January 2021.
He has removed the minimum income floor for universal credit too. The standard allowance for a single universal credit claimant aged 25 or over is being increased from £317.82 a month to £409.89, and there are other elements you may be entitled to. Couples can claim more, though if your partner is still earning that will affect how much you can claim. Visit gov.uk/apply-universal-credit.
I’ve been off work self-isolating
You should be eligible for sick pay. If you are an employee, your employer may have a scheme more generous than that offered by the government.
Otherwise you will be entitled to statutory sick pay of £94.25 a week, paid for up to 28 weeks. This can now be claimed from day one rather than day four. Get an isolation note from 111.nhs.uk/isolation-note.
The self-employed cannot claim statutory sick pay but can claim universal credit of the same value.
I’m looking after someone who is ill
Employees are entitled to time off to look after dependants – this includes a partner or parent as well as children. The time off is unlimited but employers are not obliged to pay you for this. If yours does not, ask if you can use holiday or rearrange your working day.
I have a mortgage but no work
You can use the mortgage payment holiday scheme announced by the chancellor to stop your payments for three months. Lenders have been told not to charge fees for this, but interest will build on the money you haven’t paid off.
Your lender should outline the implications. You need to contact them direct. Phone queues are long but some lenders are offering the service online. Lenders have also been told that they must not repossess anyone now.
The self-employed have been told they can expect help, but most announcements have focused on employees
I can’t pay my rent
There is some help for tenants in the form of increases to the local housing allowance – it has been increased so that it covers up to 30% of the market rent in your area. This will help anyone who already claims universal credit or who claims housing benefit separately.
If you do not already claim a benefit and are losing your job, you can claim for support for housing as part of a universal credit application.
There have also been moves to prevent landlords from evicting tenants, although these simply prevent eviction for three months rather than the usual two.
Speak to your landlord if you are having problems. Buy-to-let landlords have the option of taking a payment holiday on their mortgages and passing it on to tenants.
Is there any other help available?
The sums available through universal credit standard allowance and the basic element of working tax credit are both being increased by £1,040 a year for 12 months.
Local councils have been given a £500m hardship fund so that they can help vulnerable households by reducing council tax for those who receive local council tax support.
Can I know exactly what I can claim?
To find out what your circumstances make you eligible for, use one of the benefits calculators offered by charities. Turn to Us has one at benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk
The site is very busy so take a note of the “calculation reference” code on the first page, to avoid losing any unsaved information.
▼ Liverpool’s shopping precincts were deserted yesterday after shops were ordered to close
A closed coffee shop in Leicester the day after the prime minister put the UK in lockdown