COVID-19 Benefits Advice
If you have been affected by COVID-19, whether it is through infection, self-isolation or social distancing requirements, below is advice on what to do if you were/are in work and/or self-employed. There are also links to websites that provide further advice:
For the first 7 days of sickness employees can self-certify. After this period of time you usually have to provide a fit note from your GP. If you are displaying symptoms of Coronavirus and those who or have been told to self-isolate because of this disease a self-isolation note can be obtained.
Employers are asked to use discretion on the evidence they require.
Those who choose to self-isolate in case they come in to contact with the virus would not be considered sick. It would be good practice for employers to facilitate homeworking for these people.
You must be an employee to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, you do not have to have a written contract of employment. SSP is paid for the first 28 weeks of sickness or until your contract of employment ends; claimants will then have to claim a sickness benefit.
Two or more periods of sickness that are separated by eight weeks or less are linked and treated as one single period.
Your employer cannot dismiss you from employment to avoid paying you SSP but dismissal on grounds of sickness is not necessarily illegal and employees needs to get advice from their union regarding possible unfair dismissal.
SSP rules have been extended, to pay from the 1st day of sickness and not the fourth and to cover:
- individuals who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate;
- people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.
Further information is available on:
If you meet the qualifying criteria for working tax credit (i.e. depending on your circumstances working either 16/24/30 hours); you are treated as still being in work for the first 28 weeks of sickness when:
- You are being paid Statutory Sick pay
- Being paid new-style contributory Employment and Support Allowance
- You are incapable of work due to pregnancy
- Receiving national insurance credits because you are incapable of work or have limited capability for work.
If you are/were Employed:
If your work has ended completely or your hours of work have reduced to less than 16/24/30, you can still qualify for tax credits during the 4 week run on.
If you have been laid off or put on short-time working the four week run-on starts after an initial period of up to four weeks, or after you have been notified that you will not be able to return to work, or work sufficient hours.
If you are a furloughed worker, you are still employed and can remain entitled to working tax credits. Entitlement to Working Tax Credits only ends if your employment has ended.
If you are Self-Employed:
We are waiting for further information from Government on whether such a provision will be put in place for those who are self-employed people in receipt of tax credits.
Childcare costs within Working Tax Credit
To qualify for help with childcare costs you must be entitled to Working Tax Credit and your child must be in approved childcare. You can continue to receive the childcare element within Working Tax Credit if you stop paying for childcare costs for less than 4 weeks; after 4 weeks any change of £10 in charges needs to be reported. If you are still paying for childcare, but your child is no longer attending due to the necessity to stay at home, HMRC have said that these costs will be covered. We are awaiting further guidance.
Changes in Earnings
A change of your earnings is not a change of circumstances that you have to report; however by reporting this change you are reducing the risk of being over or underpaid when they finalise your award at the end of the financial year. If you have had a change to your earnings and want your tax credits recalculated you should ring Tax Credits on 0345 300 3909, however the first £2,500 of any increase or decrease are disregarded.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction are means tested benefits. If you have any change in your income (it decreases or increases) it is important that you tell us as soon as possible and we will reassess your entitlement to this benefit and to prevent any underpayment or overpayment. This applies whether you are employed or self-employed.
If you are Employed:
If you are working and claiming Universal Credit and have been affected with Covid-19 or you are required to self-isolate you will be treated as having limited capability for work. You will not be required to submit fit notes to the Department for Work and Pensions nor will you be called for a work capability assessment. As you will be treated as having limited capability for work, your work related requirements will be work-focused interviews and work preparation.
You should write all changes on your journal and keep the Department for Work and Pensions informed of your situation.
If you are Self-Employed:
The minimum income floor that applied to those who had been self-employed for 12 months or more has been suspended. This means that the actual amount of profit you receive from your self-employed earnings will now be used in the calculation of entitlement.
If you have not yet made a claim for any benefits then listed below are the options available to you.
New-style Employment and Support Allowance
If you are claiming benefit for the first time because you are sick, have been infected with Covid-19 or you are required to self-isolate you will be treated as having limited capability for work and may be able to claim New-style Employment and Support. This means that you will not have to provide fit notes nor have to attend a work capability assessment.
To qualify for this benefit you must have met the national insurance contribution conditions and not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. This benefit can be paid after SSP even if you still have a contract of employment. This is a contributory benefit, and entitlement depends on your circumstances as the claimant. There are no capital or income rules except any occupational pension over £85.00 per week that is paid to you as the claimant can affect the amount you receive. Claimants may also qualify for Universal Credit to top up this benefit.
Further information is available at www.gov.uk - New Style Employment and Support Allowance.
If your hours of work have reduced or you have been made redundant you may be able to qualify for 'new style jobseekers allowance'. To qualify you must meet the relevant national insurance contributions conditions. This is a contributory benefit, so entitlement depends on your circumstances. As it is not means tested, it doesn't matter about the income of your partner if you have one. Income that is taken into account is any earnings you receive for part time work (under 16 hours), less the relevant earnings disregards (usually £5) and occupational pensions of more than £50.00. Most other income is disregarded providing you continue to meet the basic conditions. New-Style Jobseekers Allowance is paid for a maximum amount of six months. Universal Credit is the means tested benefit that can top up any contributory JSA.
If you are receiving Income Related Jobseekers Allowance it either means that you are unable to claim Universal Credit because you meet the SDP gateway conditions or you have been claiming this benefit prior to full roll out of Universal Credit. Entitlement will continue providing you still meet the criteria or until you are managed migrated over to Universal Credit.
If you become sick whilst claiming Jobseekers Allowance you can continue to claim this benefit. The Job Centre can relax your work related requirements and treat you as available for work for up to two two-week periods of sickness in the last twelve months or up to 13 weeks, if you have been or expect to be unable to work for more than two weeks but not more than 13 weeks or you have already had your two two-week periods of sickness. Unfortunately to be treated as sick for Jobseekers Allowance you will require a fit note after seven days of self-certification. At the time of writing the Government has not changed the regulations like they have for Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance to relax this condition.
If you do not have enough money to live on you may be advised to claim Universal Credit. A claim for Universal Credit will end entitlement to any of the other means tested benefits (Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; Income Related Jobseekers Allowance; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support, Housing Benefit) and. you will not be able to reclaim these benefits. You should get advice before you make a claim, especially if you are self-employed, a student or have savings of £16,000 or more.
If you are receiving one of these benefits you are advised to have a better off calculation to check if you are better off staying on your current benefits with adjustments or claim Universal Credit.
Those needing to claim a means tested benefit (entitlement will depend on your capital, income of you and your partner) for the first time will now have to claim Universal Credit unless they meet the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) gateway conditions.
To qualify you must have less than £16,000 in capital and meet the means test. The means test will differ depending on your personal circumstances and what other income or earnings you have coming in and the amount of savings you have between £6,000 to £16,000. Claimants may qualify for this benefit if they are in work; not working; sick or have caring responsibilities.
Universal Credit can be the only income you have coming in or top up other income (e.g. statutory sick pay, new-style ESA) to the level that the Government says that you need to live on.
Statutory Sick Pay and other income is taken into account when calculating any entitlement to Universal Credit. For example, if you are single aged 25+ and have no dependent children and do not pay rent, at the time of writing it is our understanding that a work allowance will be applied within the calculation of Universal Credit, in this case, you could qualify for a payment of Universal Credit of up to £317.82 per month. You may qualify for more than this depending on your circumstances e.g. if you pay rent you are likely to get an additional amount to help with your rent payments.
All claimants, including your partner if you have one, must sign a claimant commitment, which will outline what work related requirements you have to undertake in order to receive this benefit. If you are claiming because Covid -19 or the requirement to self-isolate, your work related requirements for your claimant commitment will be work-focused interview and work preparation. The Department for Work and Pensions will tell you what to do.
Council Tax Reduction
Council Tax Reduction provides assistance to those who have a liability to pay council tax. It is means tested so it will depend on the income and capital of you and your partner; but it can be claimed whether you are in or out of work. This reduction is under claimed, so it is important that you check your entitlement which you can do by visiting our Benefits page.
Self-Employment Support Scheme
If you are currently self-employed and have been affected by COVID 19 the Government have brought in a Self-employment Income Support Scheme that will cover the three months to May in the first instance and be available from the 1st June 2020. The scheme will provide self-employed workers with a taxable HMRC grant of 80% of their average monthly profit over the last 3 years up to a maximum of £2,500 a month and will be paid in a single lump-sum payment.
You can continue to do business whilst claiming this grant.
This scheme will be available to those with a trading profit of up to £50,000 in 2018/19 (or an average of less than £50,000 between 2016/17 and 2018/90 where the majority of their income came from self-employment and where they were already self-employment with a tax return for 2019.)
If you missed the deadline to return your tax return in January, you now have four weeks to do so.
Support available to those who have been laid off, or hours or work have been reduced
If you become liable to pay childcare costs for the first time you may be able to receive some financial support via Tax Credits. If you are already receiving Child Tax or Working Tax Credit; Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction you should notify the local authority of these changes.
If you are liable to pay childcare costs to your childcare provider and your child is no longer able to attend due to the necessity to stay at home, HMRC have confirmed that for tax credits these will still be paid.
If you have claimed a sickness benefit and are waiting to be assessed as having limited capability for work and the Decision Maker within the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) is satisfied that you are a person affected by the coronavirus you will be treated as having limited capability for work. You will need to contact the DWP to inform them. A person is affected by coronavirus disease if they are:
- infected or contaminated with coronavirus disease; or
- in isolation; or
- caring for a child under 16 or under 20 and in full time education or approved training who lives with them:
You will be contacted from time to time to check whether you are still affected by coronavirus.
If you were claiming only because you were affected and are no longer affected by coronavirus you will no longer be treated as having limited capability for work.
If you were claiming because of other health conditions and became affected and are no longer affected by coronavirus you will continue to be treated as having limited capability for work whilst awaiting a medical assessment.
As from the 24 March 2020 all reviews and reassessments have been suspended for three months. This means that your benefit will continue to be paid until such time when the DWP reinstates reviews and reassessments.
These benefits are for people with a long term illness and/or disabilities. To qualify you must have had or expect to have the condition for a 'qualifying' period and/or for a future period. These change depending on the disability benefit. Which disability benefit you claim will depend on a number of factors. They can be claimed if you are in work and/ or in receipt of other benefits.
New claims for these benefits will continue as normal.
Anyone already receiving these benefits will continue to receive their current payments as normal. As from the 24th March all reviews and reassessments have been suspended. Your benefit will continue in payment until such time when review and reassessments are reinstated.
Health care assessments
All face to face assessments have been suspended. Anyone who has a scheduled appointment for an assessment from 17 March 2020 onwards does not need to attend. Alternative arrangements will be made to carry out either paper-based assessments or assessments undertaken over the telephone. It is advised that as much supportive evidence is submitted at the point of claim/review.
Registering a birth of a child has currently been deferred. The General Register Office have confirmed that Child Benefit can be applied for without a birth certificate and verification will need to be provided once the birth of a child has been registered. This should enable other means tested benefits, such as Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to include child dependent increases, unless the new-born is a third or subsequent child in which case the two child rule will apply unless they are exempt.