Employment and Benefits

IMPORTANT NOTICE

DWP are no longer conducting face-to-face assessments. See here for their statement.

Ross & Cromarty Citizens Advice Bureau has closed its office. Please contact them through any of the contact details linked here.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT

A new scheme for self-employed people was announced on the 26th of March 2020. This will allow the self-employed to  claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. All of the details can be found here.

Self-employed people can now effectively access statutory sick pay (through universal credit).

The minimum income floor for all self-employed people is now suspended. You can now access universal credit in full at the rate of statutory sick pay. For More details here on the Government website or here on Understanding Universal Credit .

For income tax self-assessment, payments due on the 31 July will be automatically deferred until 31 January 2021.

Advice for those who are self-employed can be found here. 

ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS

If you are on a PAYE scheme and you have regular earnings you may be covered by the  Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The UK Government will be publishing more guidance on this shortly.

If you don't qualify under the new arrangements you may also be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance.

RECENTLY UNEMPLOYED

For those that have recently become unemployed, you can find information on how to claim support here. 

NEW EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Many companies and organisations are seeking new staff as they deal with the pressure of staff absences or increased demand for critical infrastructure and services. This includes supermarkets and agriculture.

For example:

  • Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Aldi, Lidl, Coop and Morrisons have all announced recruitment drives and that they need thousands of new workers to keep shops operating effectively.

  • The National Farmers Union of Scotland has launched a service to help link people on leave or who have suddenly found themselves out of work with Scottish fruit and vegetable growers who urgently need new workers. For more information, please see here. These jobs are critical to maintaining the flow of home-produced, healthy food.

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. This will be paid from day 1.

PROOF OF SICKNESS

If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS online. Please do not visit a GP or call 111.

This service is only for people who:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus and have used the NHS online coronavirus service

  • have been told by a healthcare professional they have symptoms of coronavirus

  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus

For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) after 7 days of sickness absence. Isolation notes will also be accepted by Jobcentre Plus as evidence of your inability to attend.

If you have to stay at home because you are in a vulnerable group but feel well enough to work, ask your employer if you can work from home. If you can work from home, you will not need an isolation note.

TURN2US

Turn2Us is a national charity helping those facing financial crisis.

SOCIAL SECURITY INCREASES 

For those in receipt of support through the social security system, the Chancellor announced on 20th March:

  • There will be an immediate increase to Universal Credit of £1000 per year.

  • There will be an immediate increase to Working Tax Credit of £1000 per year.

COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION

The Council Tax Reduction scheme provides low income households with a reduction in their Council Tax liability. Your local authority runs the scheme in your area.

For more information, please see here.

ENERGY

Cutting off pre-payment meters has been completely suspended during the coronavirus outbreak. The measure will ensure vulnerable customers who are unable to venture outside to top up their gas or electricity will be supported by their energy supplier. They have agreed to an emergency package of measures for four million pre-payment meter customers.

Customers facing job losses and financial hardship due to the illness could receive credits in the post from their supplier to top-up their pre-payment meter, or funds from the supplier may be automatically credited to their account. Firms could also send a worker to top up a customer's meter if they are unable to go outside.

For energy supply advice, please see here.

Bankruptcy

Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB) has suspended sale and eviction from property in ongoing bankruptcy administrations until further notice in response to the pandemic, covering the vast majority of bankruptcy cases in Scotland. For more information, please see here.

Sources of independent impartial and free advice: 

MONEY SAVING EXPERT

This is advice available on the Money Saving Expert Website.

If you lost your job due to coronavirus, or were in the process of changing jobs, furlough may still be available. Before the furlough support was announced, many people were laid off by panicking firms. If that happened, speak to the firm - they are allowed to take you back on, to furlough you.

Energy bill help. Disconnections are suspended for customers of all providers - most are pushing back bill dates (and British Gas has confirmed it's removing late payment charges) for those struggling financially.

Sky Sports customers CAN now pause their subscription. Subscribers to Sky Sports (though not BT Sport) can now pause Sky Sports payments while sport is suspended.

Almost all train tickets are now refundable. Anyone with an advance ticket can now get a refund. Season ticket holders can get the unused portion of their ticket back but may have to pay a £10ish admin fee.

Contactless card limit increasing from £30 to £45 on 1 Apr. This is to reduce personal contact, though it may take some time to filter through to all retailers. Contactless limits often don't apply to mobile phone contactless payments.

Life insurance & income protection should still cover coronavirus. The same should be true with income protection policies. However, most critical illness policies won't define coronavirus as a critical illness.

Package holiday or flight cancelled? You're due cash, not vouchers - but that could change. When package holidays or flights are cancelled, the rules state you're due a full refund. Yet many firms are currently trying to direct you towards taking vouchers. Of course, if you're happy with vouchers then take them, as we need to support travel firms right now - but if not, you are due cash.

Full details here: 

 

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