For workers and self-employed people:

What happens if I work for an employer but can’t work because I or someone in my household has COVID-19 symptoms or need to self-isolate and I can’t work from home?

If you earn over £118 per week, tell your employer straight away. You may be entitled to Contractual Sick pay, if not you should be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay of £94.25 per week, or £96.35 per week from April 2021 onwards:

You can provide your employer with an isolation note if you’re away from work for more than 7 days due to the virus. Apply online:

What happens if I work for an employer but can’t work from home and my workplace is closed, or my employer says there is no work for me to do?

If you are laid off by your employer because there is no work for you to do this is called being furloughed. If you were paid through PAYE and on the payroll on 28 February 2020 (whether fixed hours, casual or zero hours) you should still receive wages from your employer and your employer can claim 80% of your wages back from the government.

What happens if I work on a zero hours/flexible contract – can I still be furloughed and can my employer still apply for assistance?

Yes, if the amount you receive varies you should either receive your average pay between April 2019-2020 or the amount you received for the same month last year (whichever is higher).

What happens to my Working Tax Credits if I am furloughed?

If you are furloughed, you can continue to be treated as being in full-time work for 8 weeks. After that period a further 4 week “run on” applies where it is accepted that work has stopped, but benefit continues to be paid. HMRC have now confirmed that they will treat you as continuing to work throughout a furlough period, thus your Tax Credits award should continue to be paid.

What happens if I am not furloughed but my hours reduce can I claim more Working Tax Credit?

If your income reduces and you are in receipt of Working Tax Credits you can ask HMRC to reassess your award; however, the hours worked must remain above 16 for you to continue to qualify.

What happens if I am self-employed and can’t work or my earnings have reduced?

If you completed a tax return for 2019 by 23 April 2020 and have made a profit of less than £50,000, then HMRC should have contacted you with a form to fill in so that you will receive 80% of your average monthly profits up to a maximum of £2500 per month. This help was available from June 2020 onwards.

If you have not completed a Tax Return you will need to claim Universal Credit (see below).

If you have not received the form you can claim online here.

What happens if I have lost my job?

You should claim benefits as quickly as possible.

Which benefit should I claim if I’m unemployed and sick?

If you are unemployed, not receiving Statutory Sick Pay and too sick to work you need to claim either new style Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit or both.

Which benefit should I claim if I’m unemployed and not sick?

Universal Credit.

How do I claim Employment Support Allowance?

Employment Support Allowance (ESA): You may be able to claim new-style ESA if you are self employed, or an employee who is following government advice on self-isolation and unable to work.

There are no rules on the savings you have, so people who can’t claim UC because they have over £16,000 in household savings can apply. However, you need to have paid enough National Insurance to qualify.

If you are eligible, the ESA will be payable from day one of sickness, rather than day eight, if you have Covid-19 or are advised to self-isolate.

To claim call 0800 328 9244; be prepared for a long wait; possibly several hours.

You can make the claim online here:

New claims for ESA do not require a sick note if the claim is due to coronavirus, but you may be asked to provide one if you are still ill in a few weeks time

If you continue to be too sick to work you will be asked to undertake a Work Capability Assessment; currently all face to face assessments are cancelled, but an assessment may be carried out on the basis of any information your GP provides, or might be carried out over the telephone.

In addition to claiming ESA, if you have less than £16,000 in savings you should also claim Unversal Credit because this may be paid at a higher rate. It can also include amounts for children, a partner and your rent or, after 39 weeks, mortgage interest.

How do I claim Universal Credit?

Universal Credit (UC); Universal Credit is available for people who are out of work or on a low household income (this can be worked out using this benefits calculator), aged over-18 and under pension age, and have less than £16,000 in household savings. You don’t need to have paid National Insurance contributions to make a claim,

UC requires an online claim:

Once an online claim is made for UC a telephone interview must be arranged to agree a “claimant commitment”.

UC also requires you  to verify your identity. There are online providers who can help with that; however, a lot of people can’t provide the information required. If that process fails, then select the dialogue “I can’t complete this online” then put a message on the journal asking them to contact you.

A biographical check can be completed; Job Centre Plus staff create a number of questions based on the information already held by DWP and HMRC. They will ask 5 questions and you must get three correct. If that fails they can write to a professional such as your GP to verify you.

If you claim UC and are in immediate hardship you can request an advance payment. That payment is a loan that will be recovered from the next 12 monthly payments.

If you need to claim Universal Credit, no conditionality applies during the Covid-19 lockdown. This means you do not have to attend the Job Centre or provide evidence that you are looking for work.

When your area is not in lockdown, you will have to either provide a sick note or show that you are looking for work (the Work Related Requirements).

Can I get help while I wait for benefits?

When you claim for Universal Credit you can apply for an Advance Payment by requesting one on your journal. A payment up to the maximum award you will get on UC should be made to you once you have verified your ID.

We urge caution though. A maximum Advance Payment with Housing Costs for one person including housing costs would come to roughly £1000, but it will be recovered from the following year’s monthly payments. A monthly repayment of £83 will make a sizeable dent in a living costs award of only £404 a month.

What happens if I am refused an Advanced Payment?

There is no right of appeal against the refusal of an Advance Payment however you should be able to ask Job Centre Plus to reconsider a decision. Usually, an Advance Payment is only refused if you are not likely to be entitled to UC.

What happens if I’ve claimed Universal Credit and received a Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant?

Income from SEISS is treated as earned income paid in the month you receive it. Any income over a “relevant threshold” will roll over into the following months.

The relevant threshold consists of:

  • Your maximum Universal Credit amount (including any housing costs), plus
  • Any work allowance you were entitled to, plus
  • £2500.

Income above that threshold will roll over into the next month.

If you don’t receive any UC in one month due to income from SEISS, you will be treated as making a new claim for UC in the following month; you shouldn’t need to reclaim once the surplus income falls below the threshold.

Contact or call 0161 769 2244.


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