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Coronavirus - help for employees

Employees experiencing financial problems due to coronavirus

Coronavirus and the need to stay at home to avoid spreading illness has meant  lots of businesses have closed and people are struggling.

The government has set up new support schemes to help people who are struggling with money because of coronavirus .

There is different support in place for employees and people who are self-employed

If you aren’t sure if you’re an employee or self-employed, you can use the government’s online tool.

This  information will help you work out how to get money coming in within a few days, but if you need help sooner or you don’t have enough to eat and you can’t get food, you should use our Emergency information guide.

Furlough scheme

The government has set up a scheme to help employers carry on paying their employees, even if there isn’t any work for them.

The scheme is called the Jobs Retention Scheme. It will pay employers 80% of their employees’ usual earnings. Employers can choose to pay their employees more than this. The scheme also covers people on zero hours contracts. It doesn’t cover self-employed people. Self-employed people are helped by a different scheme.

You will need your employer to put you on ‘furlough’. If you are on furlough you are still employed, but you do not do any work for your employer.

If you were made redundant or laid off any time on or after 28 February 2020, your employer can hire you back and furlough you.

If you started a new job after 17 March 2020, your new employer will not be able to access help for your wages through the Jobs Retention Scheme. It is possible your old employer might be able to hire you back and put you on furlough.

This was first set at 28 February but was changed on 16 April 2020. Some people who have been told by their employers that they aren't covered by the scheme might now be covered. If this applies to you, get back in touch with your employer.

While you are on furlough, you might be able to do work for another employer. You will need to check the terms of your contract with your usual employer because some contracts don’t let you work for other employers at the same time.

If your employer chooses not to furlough you and instead lay you off or make you redundant, you should check your employment rights to see if they are allowed to do this.

If your employer has reduced your hours but is still having you do some work, you won’t be covered under this scheme. You could try to negotiate with your employer to ask them to put you on furlough instead, if you think that would be better in your situation.

Frequently asked questions

What can I do if I am not getting any hours at work or have been made redundant?

First, talk to your employer about whether would agree to put you on furlough. If they are going to put you on furlough, make sure you understand how much they are going to pay you and when they are going to pay you.

If they aren’t going to put you on furlough, check whether they had the right to cut your hours or make you redundant.

Whether or not you are on furlough, you are likely to see your income drop.

Use our Benefits Calculator to check what benefits you can claim.

Use our Grants Search to check whether there are any charities that might be able to support you.

What can I do if my employer has reduced my hours?

First, think about whether you might be better off if you were furloughed. If you think you would, you can try to negotiate with your employer to ask them to furlough you instead of reducing your hours.

You should also check whether your employer has the right to reduce your hours.

Whether or not you are on furlough, you are likely to see your income drop.

Use our Benefits Calculator to check what benefits you can claim.

Use our Grants Search to check whether there are any charities that might be able to support you.

What can I do if I have been advised by the government to shield?

Some people in particularly high risk groups have been advised by the government to 'shield' themselves.

The government has written to people in these groups and recommended that they do not go out at all for 12 weeks. Some people have also been personally advised by their doctors to shield. 

If this applies to you, you have two options. You can either get statutory sick pay, or your employer can furlough you.

You are eligible for statutory sick pay if you usually earn at least £120 per week. It does not matter how long you have been working for your employer or whether you are full- or part-time. If you are eligible for statutory sick pay you will receive £95.85 per week.

Your employer can furlough you even if your workplace is still open. If you are furloughed your employer will receive 80% of your usual salary from the government. They have to pass that 80% on to you, but they might choose to pay more than this.

Your employer has a choice about whether or not they furlough you, but they don't have a choice about whether they pay you statutory sick pay.

Your best option is to decide which scheme works best for you, then talk to your employer about whether they are happy to apply that scheme to your situation.

Whether you are furloughed or on statutory sick pay, you are likely to see your income drop. 

Use our Benefits Calculator to check what benefits you can claim. 

Use our Grants Search to check whether there are any charities that might be able to support you. 

What can I do if I can’t work because I have to look after my child?

If you are in one of the groups who are considered to be 'key workers' you are entitled to send your child to school or nursery.

If you are a key worker and your child’s school or nursery has closed, you should contact your local authority. Local authorities are responsible for making sure there are places in schools and nurseries for key workers’ children. 

From 1 June, some schools in England will be opening for all children in some year groups. Schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are staying closed for now. If you live in England, you should check your children's school's website or speak to the school about when your child's year group will be going back.

If you are not a key worker but you can’t do your job because you need to look after your children, you should check your employment contract. Some contracts give people paid time off to look after dependents.

Your employer has to give you time off to look after your children, but they don’t necessarily have to pay you while you are off.

Employers can use the furlough scheme for employees who can't work because they have to look after children. Speak to your employer to find out if they are willing to furlough you. 

Whether or not you are on furlough, you are likely to see your income drop.

Use our Benefits Calculator to check what benefits you can claim.

Use our Grants Search to check whether there are any charities that might be able to support you. 

What if I can’t work because I am sick with coronavirus or I am self isolating because someone in my household is sick with coronavirus?

If you are an employee and you usually earn at least £120 per week, you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay of £95.85 per week. You might also be entitled to contractual sick pay, which would mean you would be paid more than £95.85 per week.

It doesn’t matter if you are full time or part time. As long as you earn at least £120 per week, you will be paid the full rate of Statutory Sick Pay.

Your employer should not ask you for a sick note for the first seven days. Employers have been asked not to ask for sick notes at all, but some still might. If your employer does need you to provide a sick note, you can get one using the NHS online service.

Whether or not you get Statutory Sick Pay, you are likely to see your income drop.

Use our Benefits Calculator to check what benefits you can claim. 

Use our Grants Search to check whether there are any charities that might be able to support you.

I am worried about Council Tax - what can I do?

If you are struggling with Council Tax, use our Benefits Calculator to see if you are entitled to Council Tax Reduction. If you are, contact your council to make a claim for it.

Your council may also offer a discretionary scheme to help with Council Tax. This might be able to help even if you are not entitled to Council Tax Reduction or if your Council Tax Reduction doesn’t cover all the Council Tax you have to pay.

Some councils are offering payment holidays on council tax. Check your council's website to see what their rules are.

I am worried about bills - what can I do?

Mortgage

If you have a mortgage and are struggling to meet your payments, you can ask your mortgage lender for a mortgage holiday. This won’t affect your credit rating.

There are plans to extend the mortgage holiday scheme, but they have not been finalised yet.

Rent

If you are struggling with your rent, first check what help you can get through the benefits system. As well as this, you could speak to your landlord and ask if they would be willing to let you pay rent late. Evictions have been suspended for most tenants, but if you are struggling with rent payments and your landlord is not being understanding, you should get advice.

Household bills

If you are struggling with household bills, speak to your utility providers and let them know why you’re struggling.

Lots of utility providers have schemes in place to help people who are struggling with money because of coronavirus.

Debts

If you have debts, get in touch with your creditors and ask them if you could suspend payment. Lots of lenders have special policies in place to help people who are affected by coronavirus.

From 14 April 2020 you can ask for a three month payment holiday on credit card debts and personal loans. This will not affect your credit rating.

From 14 April 2020 you can ask your bank for a £500 interest free overdraft facility on your current account. The overdraft will be interest free for three months. If you are already overdrawn by less than £500 you won't be charged any fees. 

From 24 April you can ask for a three month payment holiday on car loans.

From 24 April you can ask for a one month payment holiday on pay day loans.

From 24 April, if you have pawned any of your possessions you can ask for a three month extension on repayments before the items you have pawned are sold. 

From 24 April if you have any items on rent-to-own, you can ask for a three month payment holiday.

Payment holidays are only a temporary fix and won't help with debt problems in the long term. If you are worried about debt you should get free, specialist debt help. 

Everyone knows this is a stressful, difficult time for a lot of people. There is a lot of support out there, but if you don’t ask for it you won’t get it. 

Updated: 28 May 2020

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