Your rights out­lined

What you can do if you have lost in­come in the cri­sis

The Guardian - - Finance Coronaviru­s - Hi­lary Os­borne

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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PETER BYRNE/PA

▼ Liver­pool’s shop­ping precincts were de­serted yes­ter­day af­ter shops were or­dered to close

PHO­TO­GRAPH: JOE GIDDENS/PA WIRE

A closed cof­fee shop in Leicester the day af­ter the prime min­is­ter put the UK in lock­down

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