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Employment and benefits support

If you are affected by coronavirus or its effect on the economy, there is a wide range of support available.

Please see below for information about the changes the government has brought in to support people who are already claiming benefits, need to claim benefits, or are at risk of losing their job as a result of coronavirus.

Sick Pay

If you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of your illness. This applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020.

If you are self-isolating because you are (or someone in your household is) displaying symptoms of coronavirus, and you’re unable to work as a result, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Other eligibility criteria apply.

If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay.

For further information about Statutory Sick Pay and to check your eligibility please see the gov.uk website (external link).

You may be able to get Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay at the same time. If you are receiving Statutory Sick Pay it may be a good idea to apply for Universal Credit as well, particularly if you pay rent or have children to support. If you get both, your Statutory Sick Pay will be taken into account when calculating your Universal Credit payment.

For further information about Universal Credit and how to claim it please see the gov.uk website (external link).

If you need to provide evidence to your employer that you need to stay at home due to having symptoms of coronavirus an Isolation Note can be obtained from NHS 111 online. If you live with someone that has symptoms, an Isolation Note can also be obtained from the NHS website.

For further information please see the NHS website (external link).

If you are not eligible to receive sick pay you can apply for Universal Credit and/or apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

You can also apply for these if you are prevented from working because of a risk to public health.

For further information about Employment and Support Allowance please see the gov.uk website (external link).

Making a new claim

If you have lost your job or are working reduced hours you may be able to claim:

  • Universal Credit
  • New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (New Style JSA)
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance (New Style ESA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

New Style JSA and New Style ESA can be claimed on their own or at the same time as Universal Credit, so it may be a good idea to apply for Universal Credit anyway, particularly if you pay rent or have children to support.

Use a benefits calculator to find out what benefits you might be entitled to.

To access benefits calculators please see the gov.uk website (external link).

Universal Credit

You may be eligible for Universal Credit if:

  • You’re on a low income or out of work.
  • You’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17).
  • You’re under State Pension age (or your partner is).
  • You and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you.
  • You live in the UK.

Please be aware if you are a tax credits claimant and you claim Universal Credit, your tax credit award will be closed with effect from the day before your Universal Credit claim is made. Your Universal Credit claim will start from the day you submit it. You will not be able to re-open an award for tax credits once your existing award is closed.

For more information about Universal Credit please see the gov.uk website (external link).

New Style Jobseekers Allowance (New Style JSA)

You may be eligible for New Style JSA if:

  • You’re unemployed or working less than 16 hours a week.
  • You have been working as an employee, usually within the last 2 to 3 years, and have paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions.
  • You do not have an illness or disability that limits your ability to work.
  • You’re under State Pension age.
  • You’re not in full time education.
  • You live in the UK.

Your savings and capital (or your partner’s savings, capital and income) are not taken into account when claiming New Style JSA. However, your earnings and any payment you are getting from a pension can affect the amount you may receive.

For further information about New Style Jobseekers Allowance please see the gov.uk website (external link).

New Style Employment and Support Allowance (New Style ESA)

You may be eligible for New Style ESA if:

  • You are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work.
  • You are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), or your entitlement to SSP has ended.
  • You have been working (either as an employee or self-employed) within the last 2 to 3 years and have paid, or been credited with, enough National Insurance contributions.
  • You are 16 or over.
  • You are under State Pension age.

Your (or your partner’s) savings will not affect how much New Style ESA you’re paid. If your partner works, it does not affect your claim. Most income is not taken into account, but a personal pension can affect the amount you may receive.

For further information about New Style ESA please see the gov.uk website (external link).

Changes because of Coronavirus

Contacting DWP

To help us get through the unprecedented number of Universal Credit claims, we’ve changed how we process them. This means there is no need to call us. If we need to check any information provided as part of your claim with you – we will call you. Don’t worry, we are working hard to progress all of the claims. There is no need to contact us to check progress.

You should apply for Universal Credit online. You do not need to call DWP to arrange an appointment and you shouldn’t attend the jobcentre. We will know you have applied and will contact you if we need any more information from you to process any payment you are due. We will put a note into your online account and follow up with a phone call – this may appear as a private number. Please check your online account and look out for calls from us.

We are working hard to ensure the online application reflects these changes – in the meantime please do not call us. If you’ve recently applied for Universal Credit, your claim starts the day you submit your application online. This date is not reliant on your identity being verified online or linked to the date of any further contact.

DWP will never text or email asking for personal information or bank details. If you cannot use digital services at all, Universal Credit applications can still be made over the phone.

If you’re a new customer and are having a problem verifying your identity online do not worry – your claim has been submitted. Your jobcentre will know you have applied online, they will call you if they need to confirm any information with you in order to progress your claim.

Our phone systems mean calls from us may display as 0800 numbers, or an unknown number. If you get a call from an unknown number following our message in your account please pick up, as it’s likely to be DWP. We will of course ensure you know the call is genuine.

Please note, there are scams preying on people, so do not share information if you’re not sure the call is from DWP. If you are in any doubt, please ask the caller to post a specific form of words into your journal so you can be sure it’s us.

Making a claim

If you need to claim Universal Credit, New Style ESA or ESA because of coronavirus, you will not be required to produce medical evidence to start your claim. Depending on your circumstances you may need to provide medical evidence at a later date, and we will let you know if we need this. You should begin your online claim as soon as possible.

If you are affected by coronavirus you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre.

If you are suffering from coronavirus – or have been advised to stay at home in line with government guidelines – and want to apply for ESA, the usual 7 waiting days for new claimants will not apply. ESA will be payable from day one.

Housing

Universal Credit can include help towards your housing costs.

From April, Local Housing Allowance rates will be increased to the 30th percentile of market rents. This will apply to all private renters who are new Universal Credit claimants, or have an existing Universal Credit claim that includes a housing element, and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.

For further information on Local Housing Allowance rates please see the gov.uk website (external link).

The government has announced that mortgage lenders will offer a three-month mortgage payment holiday to those struggling to pay.

Already claiming benefits

Changes to jobcentre appointments

People receiving benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020.

People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended.

You should not attend the jobcentre unless directed to do so for an exceptional purpose.

If you are an existing Universal Credit claimant you will be paid as normal, you do not need to contact us. Our online service is working as normal and everything you need should be available in your account.

Although staff are working on our Universal Credit telephone lines as normal, we are exceptionally busy. You do not need to call us unless you are not able to use your online account. It is important our telephone lines are available for our most vulnerable customers, using your online account as much as possible will help protect this service.

People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible. Find out more in the Making a new claim section.

If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible, using your online journal.

Changes to health assessments

In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits. This is aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus and safeguarding the health of individuals claiming health and disability benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk due to their pre-existing health conditions.

If you already have an assessment appointment arranged, you do not need to attend. Your assessment provider will contact you to discuss your appointment and explain the next steps to you.

If you have made a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) but do not have a date for an assessment appointment, you do not need to do anything. You will be contacted shortly by telephone or letter to let you know what will happen next.

If you are already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or IIDB you will continue to receive your current payments as normal.

If you have made a new claim or wish to make a new claim, DWP will continue to take claims for all benefits. Due to unprecedented demand, it is advisable to make a claim online and to avoid peak hours where possible.

Changes to how much you’ll get

The government has increased the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year. Both have increased by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This applies to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.

This means for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance has increased from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

Local Housing Allowance rates have been increased to the 30th percentile of market rents. This applies to all private renters who are new Universal Credit claimants, or have an existing Universal Credit claim that includes a housing element, and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.

Changes to your earnings

If you are in work and already claiming Universal Credit, and are staying at home on government advice, you should report this in the usual way via your online journal. If this means you are working fewer hours, the amount of Universal Credit you receive will adjust as your earnings change.

If you are self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, please see the section on self-employment.

Childcare costs during the coronavirus outbreak

If you’re already claiming Universal Credit, any childcare costs you have paid for and reported, for childcare that has been provided, will be reimbursed as part of your Universal Credit claim as normal. Any childcare costs you have paid for and intend to report, for childcare that has been provided, will also be reimbursed as part of your claim as normal.

Whilst the government’s response to coronavirus is in place, unless you are a critical worker you will not be able to access Universal Credit childcare.

For further information about Universal Credit and childcare please see the Understanding Universal Credit website (external link).

Self-employment

If you are self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, the Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) has been temporarily relaxed. This change applies to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the outbreak.

For further information about the Minimum Income Floor see the gov.uk website (external link).

New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment but may need to take part in a telephone interview.

If you are gainfully self-employed none of your business assets will be taken into account when working out how much Universal Credit you receive. Business assets include things like machinery, premises and cash held in your business account.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

For more information about the scheme please see the gov.uk website (external link).

You should not contact HMRC about accessing SEISS now. HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational.

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will be treated as earnings in Universal Credit. Your Universal Credit payment will adjust in response to changes in your earnings.

If your business has been affected by the changes introduced to deal with coronavirus, or you need financial help whilst waiting for SEISS, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit.

Once you have made a Universal Credit claim you may be eligible for a repayable advance.

Employers

There’s a range of support available to help employers deal with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has announced an extensive package of financial measures, including the Job Retention Scheme, a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium enterprises, and deferred VAT and Income Tax payments.

For more information about the financial measures please see the gov.uk website (external link).

And if you have fewer than 250 employees, you will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee.

If you employ people, you are urged to use your discretion about what evidence, if any, you ask for when making decisions about sick pay. If evidence is required, employees can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online if they have symptoms, or the NHS website if they live with someone that has symptoms.

For information about other government support for businesses affected by coronavirus please see the gov.uk website (external link).

For those businesses that find themselves needing to increase their workforce as a result of the outbreak, such as those in food logistics, preparation and retail, remember to post vacancies on Find a Job website.

Frequently asked questions

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