If you are worried about your job, please read the following information:
· For the first time in history, the UK government is stepping in to help pay people’s wages – paying grants to support as many jobs as necessary.
· Grants will be paid to any employers who retain their staff. Any employer in the country – large, small, charitable or for profit – who promises to retain their staff, will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are kept on payroll.
· Employees who were on the payroll on 19 March or earlier are eligible. The cost of wages will be backdated to 1 March.
· Grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – which is above the average income. Employers will be free to top up the remaining 20 per cent, but this is not mandatory. There will be no limit on the number or total value of grants paid out.
· The UK Government will also cover the cost of National Insurance and pension contributions. Employer contributions for furloughed staff will be paid by the UK Government on top of 80 per cent of salary costs. This could save businesses an extra £300 a month for each employee under the scheme.
· Workers on the Job Retention Scheme who are planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate.
· The scheme has been extended by the UK Government until the end of October. There will be no changes to the scheme until the end of July. But from the start of August there will be flexibility for employers to return people to work part time.
· The scheme is now closed to new applications – unless you are returning to work from any kind of parental leave. If you are returning for parental leave, your employer will still be able to furlough you even after the June 10 cut-off date. But in order to be eligible, your employer must have previously furloughed other staff in the past.
· Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.
· If you were furloughed, your employer will be eligible for a £1,000 bonus from the UK Government to keep you in work. Employers will be eligible for £1,000 for every furloughed staff member who is kept in employment through to January 2021 Payments will be made from February 2021, and further details will be announced later in July.
If you are looking for work, please read the following information:
· If you are aged between 16 and 24, you may soon be able to find a new job thanks to the UK Government Kickstarter Scheme. The UK Government is asking businesses to offer 6-month work placements to out of work young people and in return the UK Government will pay their salaries and national insurance contributions. The scheme will open for applications in August, with the first jobs expected to start in the autumn. Further details are due to be announced.
· The UK Government is doubling the number of work coaches at job centres to get as many people back into work as possible. And a new website has been launched to advertise thousands of critical jobs across the UK – https://jobhelp.dwp.gov.uk/.
If you think you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), please read the following information:
· 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 self-isolating because of COVID-19, you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people self-isolating 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 https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay for more information.
· How soon does SSP apply? The UK Government is legislating for SSP to be paid from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to self-isolate caused by COVID-19. Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March. You should talk to your employer if you are eligible for SSP and need to claim.
· Do I need a sick note? Those who have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate are able to obtain an ‘isolation note’ at https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ after seven days of sickness absence. Isolation notes will be accepted by Jobcentre Plus as evidence of your inability to attend.
If you think you may be eligible for Universal Credit, please read the following information:
· You can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit (UC) or new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). For more information on how to claim, please visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance. You will now be able to claim online and access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus.
· The minimum income floor on Universal Credit has been suspended for 12 months. This means self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate that is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. If self-employed claimants’ work, and therefore earnings, have significantly reduced due to the impact of COVID-19 guidance on self-isolation and social distancing, and the wider economic impacts of the outbreak, their Universal Credit award will increase to reflect their lower earnings.
· If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate.
· The UK Government have increased Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by over £1,000 a year. The Universal Credit standard allowance will increase by £86.67 per month (equivalent to £20 per week), on top of the planned annual uprating. Together these measures are estimated to benefit over 4 million of our most vulnerable households.
· You no longer need to phone the DWP as part of your Universal Credit claim. New changes mean that if there is information that needs to be verified as part of your claim, the Department for Work and Pensions will phone you instead. This will mean you do not face long waits on the phone trying to get through to a member of staff.
If you think you may need financial support from your local council, please read the following information:
· The ‘Scottish Welfare Fund’ has received additional funding to provide crisis grants for those in financial emergency. Details on how to apply via your local authority can be found at https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-welfare-fund/apply-or-track-your-application/.
· The council tax reduction scheme has received additional funding. To find out if you are eligible please visit https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/benefits/help-if-on-a-low-income/help-with-your-council-tax-council-tax-reduction-s/. Details on how to apply for a council tax reduction via your local authority can be found at https://www.mygov.scot/council-tax/discounts-exemptions-and-reductions/.
· The Scottish Government said they would set up a ‘Food Fund’ to support households who may be worried about accessing food – whether due to an income drop or self-isolation. Local councils are free to deploy this funding as they see fit, so questions about how to access funding are best directed to them in the first instance. You can find their contact details at https://www.mygov.scot/find-your-local-council/.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties meeting your mortgage repayments, please read the following information:
· The UK Government has agreed with mortgage lenders that they will offer ‘repayment holidays’ of 3 months to households in financial difficulty due to COVID-19. This will also apply to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19.
· The offer of a payment holiday can be made available to customers who are up to date with payments and not already in arrears.
· Customers who are concerned about their current financial situation should contact their lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss if this is a suitable option for them. The application period has been extended until 31 October.
· If you are still struggling to make your payments at the end of your initial mortgage holiday, an extension for a further three months should be available.
· A fund has been launched to provide interest-free loans to landlords for lost rental income on a single property. You can apply at https://covidlandlordloan.est.org.uk/.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties paying your rent, please read the following information:
· You should not face the threat of eviction for at least 6 months. New legislation protects renters from being evicted if they fall into rent arrears as a result of coronavirus. This will extend the minimum period of arrears required to evict from three months in a row to six months in a row.
· The UK Government have announced that from this April, all new and existing private renters claiming Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will benefit from additional housing support. All Local Housing Allowance rates will be uplifted – worth an extra £14 a week on average for existing claimants and any additional Universal Credit claimants who rent in the private sector.
· New legislation means students should able to exit their purpose-built student accommodation contracts early. This means that students currently tied into a student accommodation contract, and who may have returned home due to coronavirus, should be able to exit that lease with a seven-day notice period.
· If you are experiencing issues paying your rent, please tell your landlord as soon as you can. We need landlords to help their tenants as part of society’s overall response. We cannot have people put at risk of homelessness at this difficult time.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties paying your energy bill, please read the following information:
· An agreement between the UK Government and energy suppliers means customers who are unable to top up their meter or can’t afford to pay their bills should get support from their supplier. You are advised to contact your energy supplier immediately to discuss how you can be kept on supply.
· If you are a pre-payment or pay as you go customer who cannot leave your home, your provider should help you stay supplied. This could mean someone else can be sent to top up your card, a pre-loaded gas or electricity card is sent in the post, or funds are added to your credit.
· Disconnection of credit meters should be completely suspended. If you are in financial distress, you may also be able to have your debts or bill payments reassessed, paused or reduced where needed.
If you are experiencing difficulties paying back personal loans or credit card bills, please read the following information:
· The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have called on lenders to use flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account customers’ individual circumstances. Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect.
· If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender.
· If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score.
If you are a student experiencing financial difficulties, please read the following information:
· A £5 million package of emergency financial support has been put in place to help students facing hardship. Students should apply directly to their university or college. Further information is available at https://www.studentinformation.gov.scot/coronavirus
If you are concerned about facing insolvency, please read the following information:
· Scotland’s insolvency service, Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), has suspended sale and eviction from property in ongoing bankruptcy administrations until further notice.
· The evidential requirements for individuals seeking debt relief through bankruptcy have been amended to allow faster access, providing protection from debt enforcement.
· AiB is also reducing the need for face to face contact, allowing access to debt relief to be maintained by accepting electronic signatures on protected trust deeds and other documentation.
· If you have an ongoing debt payment plan but are worried about how you will be able to pay, AiB will not be revoking these programmes.
· The latest information is available from Accountant in Bankruptcy here: https://www.aib.gov.uk/aib-covid-19-business-continuity.
If you are worried about your current benefit claim, please read the following information:
· The UK Government has suspended face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits. This move is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus.
· You can now claim your pension credit online. The application form is available at https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claim. It is still possible to claim by post or over the phone if you prefer.
· The UK Government have increased the basic element of Working Tax Credit by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021. Depending on your circumstances this increase could mean up to an extra £20 each week.
· The UK Government are protecting tax credit payments, so that if you can’t work your normal hours due to coronavirus you will still automatically receive your normal payment.
· The UK Government has also uprated Child Benefit, other tax credits rates and thresholds, and Guardian’s Allowance by 1.7 per cent with effect from 6 April 2020. The full list of rates and allowances is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rates-and-allowances-tax-credits-child-benefit-and-guardians-allowance/tax-credits-child-benefit-and-guardians-allowance.
· There has been additional funding given to Discretionary Housing Payments. If you are struggling with your housing costs and are currently receiving Universal Credit or Housing Benefit you may be eligible for further financial support. Further information is available at https://www.mygov.scot/discretionary-housing-payment/.
If you require further financial support, please read the following information:
· You can check whether you are eligible for any of the social security benefits delivered in Scotland at https://www.mygov.scot/benefits/social-security-scotland/. If you have recently started to receive Universal Credit please be aware you may now be eligible for other benefits as a result.