The Coronavirus outbreak has been a source of uncertainty and stress for many families within the NPUK community. As well as worries about the health loved ones, you may also have concerns about the financial implications for your family, particularly if you or a partner are likely to have to stop working or see a significant reduction in earnings.
If this applies to you, you may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, these payments may be a lot lower than your normal wage. For that reason, you may also need to claim income-related benefits to top these up.
Statutory Sick Pay.
You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.
If you are staying at home because of COVID-19 you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.
To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) page for more information.
New rules state that SSP is payable from day 1 of your isolation. SSP is claimed from your employer. The maximum rate of SSP is currently £94.25 per week.
Employment and Support Allowance.
Who can claim new style Employment and Support Allowance (new style ESA)?
Not everyone is eligible for SSP. For instance, self-employed people or employees who usually earn less than £118 per week. If you cannot get SSP, you may be able to claim new style ESA instead.
New style ESA is a contributory benefit. This means that whether you get new style ESA will depend on your national insurance record. For people aged over 25, new style ESA is usually £73.10 per week, although it may increase after 3 months depending on the outcome of a medical assessment.
Claiming income-related benefits and tax credits.
If you do not qualify for SSP or new style ESA, you may be able to get help via means-tested benefits instead. You may also be able to get means tested benefits to top up your SSP or new style ESA if this is not enough for you to live on.
Already on income-related benefits?
If you are already on income related benefits like Housing Benefit or tax credits, explain about your reduced income to the relevant office paying you this benefit. This may lead to an increase in the income-related benefits that you receive.
However, if you receive tax credits this is based on your annual income rather than your weekly or monthly income. This means that the Tax Credits Office will ask you to provide an estimate of what your annual income is likely to be before they can work out your tax credits. If you under-estimate your likely income, this could result in you receiving an overpayment that you are asked to pay back at a future date.
You also have the option of claiming Universal Credit rather than your current income-related benefits. However, if you do this your current income-related benefits will stop and you will not be able to reclaim them at a later date. Some people are worse off if they move from existing benefits to Universal Credit. You can check whether this applies to you by using an online benefits calculator such as these:
Not currently getting any income-related benefits?
It is no longer possible for most people to make new claims for income related benefits such as tax credits, housing benefit or income support. Instead new claims for these benefits fall under Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit so whether you get Universal Credit will depend on your income and savings (and those of your partner if you have one) as well as your other family circumstances.
Do I need to submit medical certificates to claim benefits?
In order to claim some benefits like new style ESA or Universal Credit on the basis of ill-health, you are expected to submit medical certificates from your GP, known as a statement of fitness for work. However, people who are claiming these benefits on the basis that they have coronavirus or are self-isolating won’t have to provide a medical certificate.
Will I have to attend a medical assessment as part of a benefits claim?
People who claim new style ESA or Universal Credit on the basis that they have health problems are often expected to take part in a face to face assessment with a health professional.
However, these face-to-face assessments are being scrapped for three months from 16 March 2020 due to the current outbreak. Decisions will instead be made on paper evidence or a telephone assessment. This also applies to face-to-face assessments for Personal Independence Payment.
If I am self-employed and claim Universal Credit will I be treated as having an assumed minimum income from my business?
Some self-employed people who claim Universal Credit are treated as having an assumed income from self-employment. This is called the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) and is based on the equivalent national minimum wage that would be paid for the number of hours you work.
Not all self-employed claimants are subject to the MIF. For example, some carers are exempt.
Furthermore, the government have announced that the MIF will be temporarily removed for claimants who are ‘directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice’. Unfortunately, the MIF may still apply to you if you are not unwell but your business has been adversely affected by the outbreak.
If I claim Universal Credit will I still have to wait 5 weeks for my first payment?
Unfortunately, no changes have yet been announced concerning payment of Universal Credit. The benefit is paid monthly in arrears, so new claimants will usually have to wait around five weeks before receiving their first monthly payment.
You can apply for an advance payment. This is a loan payment and will be expected to repay it by way of regular deductions from your monthly Universal Credit payments once these start.
If I claim benefits like Universal Credit will I have to attend interviews or meetings at my local jobcentre?
The government has announced that for a three-month period starting on 19 March 2020, people receiving benefits will not be required to attend any job centre appointments. Job Centres will remain open to help anyone who is unable to claim benefits on-line or by telephone.
Will I be able to claim Carer’s Allowance for looking after someone in my household who has Coronavirus?
You can only claim Carer’s Allowance if you are looking after someone who is on qualifying disability benefit such as the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the middle or highest rate or the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment.
These disability benefits are only paid to people with long-term disabilities or illnesses. Because of this you are unlikely to be able to claim Carer’s Allowance for looking after someone with Coronavirus unless they are already getting a qualifying disability as a result of pre-existing disabilities or health problems.
What benefits can I claim if I am not unwell but am unable to attend my work because either because I have to care for my children as a result of their school/nursery closing or because my employer has laid me off temporarily?
On the 17th March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that he “would be working with trade unions and businesses to support people’s financial security by urgently developing new forms of employment support to help protect jobs and incomes”.
At this point in time no details of these new forms of ’employment support’ are yet available. In the meantime, no special benefit rules have been put in place for parents who are unable to work either due to childcare responsibilities or because their employer has asked them not to.
Some workers may have a contractual right to paid parental leave but this will depend on your contract of employment. For most people parental leave is unpaid. You should also seek employment advice if your employer tells you not to come to work.
However, you should also get advice about what benefits you might be able to claim if you or a partner has seen their earnings stop or drop significantly, Families who already get income-related benefits such as tax credits or Housing Benefit may be entitled to an increase in these benefits, although this will depend on individual circumstances.
Those families not currently getting income-related benefits may be able to claim Universal Credit instead. Since Universal Credit is means tested, entitlement will depend on your individual family circumstances.
The video below is from Martin Lewis gives furlough advice, including more information for self-employed, businesses and employees and what they can do right now on the money saving expert website.
For more information visit the money saving expert site here.
If you want to discuss the finance options available to you further, contact the NPUK team on email@example.com, or call: 0191 415 0693.