Coronavirus : Benefit Entitlement/Frequently Asked Questions
Statutory Sick Pay
- What are the eligibility conditions for Statutory Sick Pay?
Employers must pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to employees and workers when they meet eligibility conditions, including when:
- they’ve been off sick for at least 1 day, including non-working days
- they earn on average at least £118 per week, before tax
- they’ve told their employer within any deadline the employer has set or within 7 days
Agency, casual and zero-hours workers can get SSP if they meet the eligibility conditions.
Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay due to them if they need to self-isolate because:
- they have coronavirus
- they have coronavirus symptoms
- someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
- they’ve been told to self-isolate by a Doctor or NHS 111
- If someone has symptoms and lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days.
- If someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days. Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.
- If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.
Statutory Sick Pay is paid at the weekly rate of £94.25 per week.
*An Employer may pay Contractual Sick Pay, for example full/half pay for a particular duration of time.
New Style Contribution Based Employment & Support Allowance
- What are the basic qualifying conditions?
- Have limited capability for work
- Aged 16 or over
- Under Pension Age
- Not entitled to Income Support/Jobseekers Allowance
- Not within a period of entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay
- Meet the contribution contributions of which there are two :-
- You must have paid or be treated as having paid, at least 26 weeks of Class 1 or Class 2 national insurance contributions on earnings at the lower earnings limit in one of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year
- You must have paid or been credited with Class 1 or Class 2 national insurance contributions on earnings 50 times the lower earnings limit in each of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year
For the first 13 weeks of your claim you are paid the basic allowance of either £73.10 or £57.90 per week depending on whether you are aged under 25 or 25 or over. Following the 13 week assessment phase, the basic allowance may be topped up with an additional component of £38.55 per week. Claims can be made over the telephone by contacting ESA Fresh Claims on 0800 085 6318 or by following the ESA links at www.nidirect.gov.uk to complete a Claim Form that can be sent via e-mail.
*New Style Contribution Based Employment & Support Allowance is non-means tested except that most types of occupational pensions of £85 per week gross or more can reduce entitlement.
- What is Universal Credit?
- Universal Credit replaced Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Relate Employment & Support Allowance, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Working Tax Credit. It is a means tested benefit paid to people of working age who are on a low income. You can claim if you are looking for work, if you are unable to work through sickness or disability, if you are a lone parent, if you are caring for someone or if you are working and your wages are low. You can claim if you are a single person, part of a couple or to include the needs of children. A claim for Universal Credit will cause an existing claim for Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Relate Employment & Support Allowance, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Working Tax Credit to stop and you could receive less monies as a consequence. It is important to seek appropriate advice before submitting a claim for Universal Credit.
A claim for Universal Credit can be made at www.nidirect.gov.uk by typing Universal Credit into the ‘Search Bar’ and following the links. The first payment can take 5 weeks but in the interim period you can apply for a Universal Credit Advance Payment through your UC online account or a Universal Credit Contingency Fund Payment through Finance Support Service on 0800 587 2750.
New Style Contribution Based Jobseekers Allowance
- How do I qualify for New Style Contribution Based Jobseekers Allowance?
- You are not working 16 hours or more a week
- You do not have limited capability for work
- Available for/Actively seeking work/Entered into a claimant commitment
- Under Pension Age
- Not in full time education
- You must also meet the contribution conditions :-
- You must have paid or be treated as having paid, at least 26 weeks of Class 1 national insurance contributions on earnings at the lower earnings limit in one of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year
- You must have paid or been credited with Class 1 national insurance contributions on earnings 50 times the lower earnings limit in each of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year.
*New style Contribution Based Jobseekers Allowance is £57.90 a week for those aged under 25 and £73.10 a week for those aged 25 or over and is paid for a maximum of six months. Part-time earnings are taken into account as income and occupational/personal pensions of over £50 a week are taken into account. Contact either Foyle Jobs & Benefits Office or Lisnagelvin JBO. Alternatively telephone 0800 022 4250 or by following the JSA links at www.nidirect.go.uk to complete a Claim Form that can be sent via e-mail.
Finance Support Service
- Is there any other financial help available?
If you have a financial crisis you can apply for Discretionary Support or a Short Term Benefit Advance through the Finance Support Service on 0800 587 2750 operated by The Department for Communities. Please note that this is a discretionary fund.
1. Can you claim both Statutory Sick Pay and New Style Contribution Based Employment & Support Allowance at the same time?
· No you can only one of the above at the same time.
2. Can you claim Statutory Sick Pay and Universal Credit at the same time?
· Yes you can claim both of the above at the same time.
3. Can you claim both New Style Contribution Based Employment & Support Allowance and Universal Credit at the same time?
· Yes you can claim both of the above at the same time.
4. If I already receive Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credits, Income Support, or Housing Benefit what happens to these benefits if I claim Universal Credit?
· If you receive any of the above benefits, and make a claim for Universal Credit, these benefits will normally stop. Please seek appropriate advice before switching from the ‘legacy system’ to Universal Credit.
5. If I receive any benefits, whether they be ‘legacy’ benefits as described above, or Universal Credit, and my income reduces, particularly as a direct consequence of the coronavirus, what should I do?
· If your income reduces for any reason you should report this immediately to the Office which pays your benefit or through your Universal Credit online account. You may then be entitled to additional monies.
6. If I lose my job, for example made redundant, what impact might this have for Working Tax Credits?
· If your employment comes to an end you have a duty to inform HMRC who administer Tax Credits. A person is entitled to a four week run on of their Working Tax Credit but thereafter it will stop unless you are part of a couple and can continue to qualify for Working Tax Credit as a direct result of their employment status.
7. If my Employer reduces my hours of work, including to 0 hours, what impact might this have for Working Tax Credits?
· Entitlement to Working Tax Credit is primarily based on your ‘normal’ working pattern. If your hours are reduced it is arguable that the reduced hours are not your ‘normal’ pattern. In summary, a common sense approach must be taken if someone has a recognised cycle. It is our understanding that HMRC, who administer Tax Credits, will treat a person as being in remunerative work for at least eight weeks, including eligibility for Childcare Costs.
8. If I am self employed and I stop trading, what impact might this have for Working Tax Credits?
· If you stop self employment because the business has ceased trading Working Tax Credits are only paid for a run on period of four weeks and will then stop.
9. If I am self employed and I take sick, but the business has not stopped trading, what impact might this have for Working Tax Credits?
· If you stop self employment because you are sick, but the business has not stopped trading, and you make a claim for New Style Contribution Based Employment and Support Allowance, regardless of whether or not you have entitlement, HMRC will still treat you as being in remunerative work for up to 28 weeks. Therefore you retain your entitlement to Working Tax Credits for the whole of the 28 weeks.
Workers’ Rights & Coronavirus COVID-19
What happens to my wages if I contract Coronavirus?
If an employee or a worker contracts coronavirus COVID-19, this should be treated in the same way as any other sickness absence in terms of payment. You should be paid in line with your contract of employment. If you are normally only paid statutory sick pay (SSP) during sickness absence, then this is what you should expect to be paid provided you meet the qualifying criteria.
SSP would be payable from the first day of absence. No waiting days apply.
What happens if I am advised to self-isolate? Will I get paid?
The circumstances whereby an employee or worker are advised to self-isolate are as follows
- you have coronavirus
- you have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
- someone in your household has coronavirus symptoms
- you’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
If you live alone, you must self-isolate for 7 days. If someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days. Everyone else in their household must also self-isolate for 14 days.
If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.
If an employee or a worker is unable to work due to the need to self-isolate for the reasons outlined they should let their employer know as soon as possible, outlining the reason why they must self-isolate and outline how long they are likely to be absent from work.
In these circumstances you too should be paid at least SSP from the first day of your absence. Some employers may offer additional contractual pay.
It is good practice for employers to treat this absence as they would treat sickness and apply their sickness pay policies accordingly.
Employees can self-certify their illness for the first 7 days. After 7 days, it is up to employer to decide what evidence (if any) they require from the employee or worker. This does not need to be fit note issued by a GP or other doctor. Employers should be flexible on the type of evidence they require given the current extraordinary pressures on the health service.
The government is planning to introduce a temporary alternative to the current fit note, meaning those in self-isolation will be able to obtain notification via NHS 111 as evidence.
What happens if I am worried about contracting the virus and want to self-isolate but have not been advised to do so?
Combined with an employers’ statutory duty of care for people’s health and safety and to provide a safe place to work, there’s also a strong moral responsibility to ensure that employees feel safe and secure in their employment. An employer has a duty and so you should take your concerns seriously
This is an extraordinary situation that requires both employers and employees/workers to exercise caution and to take reasonable steps to prevent the risk and spread of the virus.
Nevertheless, an employee or worker operates under a contract of employment which has express and implied terms. If an employee is choosing to remove their services and has no confirmed sickness, or advice to self-isolate, then they are effectively withdrawing their services from their employer.
The employer would be under no obligation to pay in this case. In employment contracts there are implied terms that employees should follow their employer’s reasonable instructions. If employees refuse to perform these tasks, then they are in breach of contract. It will depend on the precise circumstances but there may be grounds for following normal absence management processes.
It all comes back to what is reasonable in the circumstances.
Considerations could be as follows, are your actions reasonable dependent on the degree of risk? And are you more vulnerable due to an existing health condition, age, pregnancy, mental health condition, caring responsibility etc?
It is best to outline your concerns to your employer and try and reach an accommodation e.g. working from home. If working from home isn’t an option, you may be able to negotiate taking annual leave, unpaid leave or special leave.
If you are having any difficulties please contact us on 03003033650 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am on a zero-hour contract and I am worried if I am advised to self-isolate I will not get paid?
A zero-hour contract worker can still qualify for. To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you must:
- have done some work for your employer
- earn an average of at least £118 per week (before tax)
- Follow your employers sick reporting procedures – or within 7 days if they do not have one.
Those on zero-hours contracts who do not meet the minimum earning requirements will still not be eligible for SSP at all unless further legislation is introduced.
Self-employed and freelancers are unlikely to be entitled to statutory sick pay. Some may have income protection insurance policies for accident, illness and unemployment which may cover wages lost due to coronavirus infection. If you are not sure whether you are covered or have difficulty accessing the insurance cover purchased, please contact us.
I have been laid off by my employer due to the coronavirus, can I claim redundancy?
You might be ‘laid off’, put on ‘short-time working’ or told to take unpaid holiday if your employer doesn’t have enough work for you.
It’s usually a short-term situation because your employer’s struggling, but obviously due to coronavirus could be for a more prolonged period.
Depending on your situation, you might be able to claim redundancy pay.
Check your contract
Your employer can only lay you off or put you on short time working if your contract specifically says they can. If it’s not mentioned in your contract, they can’t do it.
Your contract can be written, a verbal agreement or what normally happens in your company. It might also be called your ‘terms and conditions’.
If you’re a member of a trade union, your union can help you work out if it’s allowed. You can also speak to your colleagues if you’re not sure what’s usual in your company.
If your contract says your employer can lay you off or put you on short time working, then they’re legally allowed to cut your hours and pay.
There’s no limit on how long your employer can lay you off or put you on short time, unless your contract says there is.
You might be entitled to some money from your employer or to claim benefits while you’re laid off or on short time working. You might also be able to use your holiday pay.
Check to see if you get ‘guarantee pay’
You should check your contract to see if you get ‘contractual guarantee pay’. This is money your employer will pay you each week while you’re laid off/on short time working.
Even if you don’t get contractual guarantee pay, you might be able to get ‘statutory guarantee pay’ from your employer.
You need to have worked there for at least 1 month, and be earning less than half your normal pay.
You can only get statutory guarantee pay for 5 days in a 3-month period.
The current rate of Statutory Guarantee pay is £29 per day. This will rise to £30 per day form 6th April 2020.
Your employer should pay your guaranteed pay as they would your normal pay.
Contact us on 03003033650 or via email at email@example.com if there’s a problem with your pay.
While you’re laid off or on short time working, you might be able to claim benefits. You should check what benefits you can get.
If you get Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits already, you might be able to get a higher amount.
You should report any change that might affect your benefits quickly – you’ll lose out if you delay.
You can argue you’ve actually been made redundant if you’re earning less than half your normal pay and you’ve been laid off or put on short time working for either:
- 4 or more weeks in a row
- a total of 6 weeks in any 13-week period
If you’re entitled to redundancy pay (for example, you’ve worked there for 2 years), you need to follow special rules to claim it. The process is complicated so contact us on 03003033650 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for help claiming your redundancy pay.
Doing other work while you’re laid off or on short time working
Check if your contract says you can do other work while you’re laid off or on short time working.
Even if your contract says you can do other work, you also have to ask your employer – it’s usually okay as long as you’re not working for a competitor.
You need to make sure you can return to your normal job as soon as your employer has work again. If you don’t, your employer might say you’ve resigned and not pay you any redundancy pay you’re entitled to.
Contact us if you need help understanding your contract or negotiating with your employer.
If your contract doesn’t allow lay off or short time working
It will be a breach of your contract to place you on short term working or lay off.
You should tell your employer that they aren’t allowed to cut your hours or pay – if that doesn’t work, you should put your complaint in writing.
If that still doesn’t work, you could
- stay in the job but claim your unpaid wages through an employment tribunal
- resign and claim your unpaid wages through an employment tribunal
It’s a big decision to leave your job – but if your employer is struggling, it may be better to find a new job rather than hope you eventually get paid.
If you’ve worked there more than 1 year, you can make a claim for the wages you’re owed, and your notice pay. You might also be able to claim for constructive unfair dismissal and redundancy pay.
If you’ve worked there less than 1 year, you can make a claim for the wages you’re owed, and your notice pay.
My employer has ceased trading and has not paid me any notice or redundancy what can I do?
As a first step you should write to your employer seeking the payments owed and depending on the status of the company you will either need to submit a claim to the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS) or the Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal.
To be eligible for a redundancy payment you will have to have worked for an employer for at least 2 years continuously.
In some circumstances you will need to submit claims to both The Redundancy Payments Service and the Office of Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal, as an added protection.
The general rule is that if your employer is legally insolvent you claim the monies owed from Redundancy Payment Service by completing an RP1. Whereas if your employer is not legally insolvent you will need to lodge proceedings with the Industrial Tribunal on an ET1 form.
Where you are unsure of your employer’s trading status you may wish to submit both claim forms. This could protect the redundancy pay element of your claim where your employer is deemed not to be legally insolvent as RPS is not able to make payments in these circumstances. They may however pay the redundancy element if you receive an Industrial Tribunal judgement declaring that you are entitled to a redundancy payment.
Please note that there are time limits for making claims to an industrial tribunal and/or the RPS.
If you need any help in pursuing the monies owed to you please contact us on 03003033650 or email email@example.com
My employer has asked me to stay at home and self-isolate, will I be paid?
If you are on a standard employment contract the answer is yes. If your employer is asking you to stay home, they have taken that decision and you should still be paid. Many office workers will be able to work from home though, so it becomes a usual working day.
If you cannot work from home, it’s more challenging but as it’s at the employer’s request they should still pay you.
Some employment contracts contain a right to suspend briefly without pay but this is only in limited circumstances and is highly unlikely to apply to a “suspected illnesses”.
Unless there is a clear contractual right to suspend without pay then employers who insist upon this could face claims for breach of contract and unlawful deduction of wages.