Coronavirus - money advice for our customers
Page updated: 11.29am on 25/03/2020
Our dedicated Money Advice Team is always here to support you in claiming the benefits you are entitled to, maximising your income and paying your rent.
We appreciate that the impact of the coronavirus outbreak means this is a difficult and uncertain time for many of our customers.
As part of our response to the pandemic, our team has collected together the following advice and guidance. If you’ve already been affected by the current situation and are struggling financially, we would strongly encourage you to contact the team on 0800 111 4013.
Money Advice Service - we're here to help
If you have any questions or need help in understanding what you are entitled to during the Coronavirus pandemic, please get in touch with our Money Advice Team for friendly, free and focused advice for your situation.
Self-isolation and sick pay
Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:
- they have coronavirus
- they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
- someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
- they've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
Statutory Sick Pay will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice – not just if you are infected by coronavirus. This will apply from 13 March 2020.
If you're following government guidance because you have coronavirus symptoms, you'll be considered unfit for work. You'll also be considered unfit for work if you're staying at home, or 'self-isolating', because you've been in contact with someone with coronavirus.
You'll get statutory sick pay (SSP) if you're considered unfit for work and are usually entitled to it. If you're not sick but have been told to self-isolate and can't work from home, you should still get your contractual sick pay on top of SSP.
Some employers might offer more than SSP – 'contractual' sick pay.
What to do if you cannot work
If an employee or worker cannot work, they should tell their employer as soon as possible:
- the reason
- how long they're likely to be off for
The employer might need to be flexible if they require evidence from the employee or worker. For example, someone might not be able to provide a sick note ('fit note') if they've been told to self-isolate for more than seven days.
Coronavirus and your money
If you have to take time off work because of coronavirus there are a number of support measures in place.
The Money Advice Service has created a mini-site packed with useful information and advice about your situation - planning ahead, what Coronavirus means for your finances and what you are entitled to.
Working from home
If an employer and employee agree to working from home, the employer should:
- pay the employee as usual
- keep in regular contact
- check on the employee’s health and wellbeing
If an employee does not want to go to work
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they're concerned about contracting coronavirus. This could particularly be the case for those who are at higher risk.
An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone.
If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.
If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action.
Lay-offs and short-time working
In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.
If the employer thinks they'll need to do this, it's important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.
Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.
Statutory guarantee payments
Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a 'statutory guarantee payment' of up to £29 a day from their employer.
This is limited to a maximum of five days in any period of three months.
On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.
Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement during that time.
If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff in advance – before at least twice the amount of days they need people to take off. For example, if they want to close for five days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.
You can't get SSP if you're self-employed.
If you have to take time off work and you don't get paid while you're off, you might be entitled to claim benefits. If you pay national insurance you might be eligible to claim contribution-based or ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
You’ll get ESA from the first day you’re ill. You won’t have to provide a fit note.
You can also claim ESA if:
- you’re not ill but you’re following government guidance to stay at home or ‘self-isolate’ and you can’t work from home
- you’re caring for a child who is ill with coronavirus or has been told to self-isolate.
If you are self-employed, claiming Universal Credit and are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus, the Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) will not be applied for a period of time whilst you are affected.
If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay. Check with your employer if you’re unsure.
Agency workers are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.
If you’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
If you’re already claiming benefits
In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions 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.
- If you have a jobcentre appointment but are staying at home on Government advice or have been diagnosed with coronavirus, you will not be sanctioned if you tell DWP in good time. If you have a Claimant Commitment, it will be reviewed to make sure it is still reasonable.
- If you are staying at home as a result of coronavirus, your mandatory work search and work availability requirements will be removed to account for a period of sickness.
- 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
- 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.
Coronavirus and claiming benefits
The Department for Work and Pensions has created a page to to support those who are affected by coronavirus. This page is updated regularly as the situation evolves, so please check it regularly.
The above information is based on advice from Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Service and gov.uk and was last updated 25/03/2020.