Corona-Finance: Employment

Corona-Finance: Employment

I’ve lost my job and need to find work urgently. What can I do?

Currently, there are shortages of workers in supermarkets for deliveries and shelf stacking and also for call centres dealing with 111 calls.

Lookout for opportunities online to help provide cover for those who are off sick. Being prepared to work in a variety of roles will give you the most opportunities. It may also be possible to apply for money from your former employer – you can check here. or access some benefits to bridge the gap.
And while applying, it’s always worth considering that at the moment, all jobs that involve working outside of the home and directly with the public involve a level of health risk, especially if you or those in your family are older, or have underlying health issues.

I’ve lost my job and can’t pay my upcoming bank loan instalment. Is there any help available?

In the first instance, contact your Bank – check for the guidance on your Bank’s website, many banks are asking for customers to contact them on social media and email. The phone they are reserving for vulnerable people who do not have access to the internet.

Banks are helping by giving people extensions to loans, mortgage holidays of 3 months, instant access to savings such as ISA’s and savings that would usually be tied into agreements.

For more information on the kind of help available from banks, check here:

I’m not sure if I’m included as a key worker and if my kids can stay in school or not. How do I find out?

Schools are issuing letters to inform parents of the new rules; you will have to apply for a place and prove you meet the criteria before sending your child into school.

You will be invited to apply if you work in a critical worker role or your child meets the vulnerable child criteria. More information is available from the link below, and from your child’s school.

My employer has said they need to reduce my hours. Can I refuse?

For smaller businesses, bosses may well be trying all they can to keep things going but their starting point should to ask you, not tell you.

They might also be trying to save your job in the longer term so ask what happens if you say ‘no’. The Money Advice Service talks through your rights here:

I am self-employed. I need to work but what if I’m ill or need to self-isolate? Is there any government help for me?

Yes. Low earning self-employed people can apply for Universal Credit (UC). Self-employed people forced to take time off can now apply. There is usually a ‘minimum income floor’ but this has been removed while the crisis is ongoing. The minimum income floor is what the government would usually estimate is the least we would earn each month when self-employed. It affects how much Universal Credit we might receive. Not having the floor means we can claim for time spent off work due to sickness. For more information, contact your Work Coach.

I don’t think my job provides sick pay but I have been infected with Coronavirus. What can I do?

Many employers don’t pay staff for time taken off sick, or it is only for a limited time. Check your staff handbook or employment contract, if you have one, to see what it says. You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), though. On 12th March, the government confirmed emergency plans to allow people to claim SSP from day one of any absence related to Coronavirus. (It is still paid through your employer.) Before this outbreak, SSP was available to paid employees but only from the fourth day of absence from work due to illness. The rate for SSP is currently £94.25 per week. More info on statutory sick pay is available here:

I have been told to self-isolate and won’t be able to work. My employer won’t pay me for this time, what do I do?

Like people who have been diagnosed sick with Coronavirus, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). On 12th March, the government confirmed emergency plans to allow people to claim statutory sick pay (SPP) from day one of ANY absence related to Coronavirus. (It is still paid through your employer.) The rate for SSP is currently £94.25 per week. More info on statutory sick pay is available here:

My employer has asked for evidence that I need to stay at home due to Coronavirus. Do I need to get this from the Doctor?

No. The NHS 111 service is being extended so we will be able to get evidence (a ‘isolation note’ as it’s known) through the NHS 111 website. The government has advised people to stay away from GP surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Instead visit the 111 NHS website:

I’m self-employed or on a zero hours contract. Can I get statutory sick pay? If not, what can I do if I need to self-isolate?

To get SSP you need to be an employee (not self-employed) and earn an average of £118 per week. For those of us that can’t claim SSP, the government announced they are making it easier for people to claim Universal Credit and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). Some of the measures that have been put in place to make claiming easier include:

  1. Not needing to provide a ‘fit note’ to make a new claim for UC or ESA;
  2. A month’s UC paid upfront as an advance without needing to attend the job center;
  3. The seven day wait for new ESA claimants has been reduced, and will now be payable from day one.

More info:

I can’t work because my workplace is closed, will I get paid?

Many employers will recognise that as it’s not your fault, you ought to get paid. Your contract may require them to, if you have fixed hours. This is easier for some bosses than others. Bigger organisations, for example, may be able to absorb ongoing staff costs but a small, local business might not. They might ask you to take unpaid leave or might be forced to make your post redundant, although you should still be paid for your notice period and any payment you are due by law, (see advice from ACAS here).

For people whose paid work will stop because premises have closed or the organisation has suspended services, they should explore what benefits they can access straight away. The government has said it wants to help but the welfare system is complex. It was already struggling to meet everyone’s needs as quickly as they needed it before Coronavirus. It is not totally clear what help is available for people who are not sick or self-isolating but unable to work.

For now, keep an eye on:

Also updates on Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

Coronavirus means I’m not earning. I am going to fall into debt. Fast. Help.

Okay. Take a moment and try not to panic. (We know that can be hard.)

The first thing we recommend is doing taking a quick money health-check, which the Quids in! Future-Proof Your Finances Test can take us through. It’s a list of simple yes/no questions to help us identify anything we might try to keep costs down and income up. At the end, it explains why it’s good to try the things we don’t yet have in place and offers some guidance on where to start.

We might be able to save money somewhere but there could also be extra income we can get hold of, like emergency benefits or grants. (Are you in East London, Gloucestershire or Bath & North East Somerset? If so, you can call your local Quids In Centre who will be happy to go through the money health-check with you. The Centres are run by Clean Slate.

Usually, the first three steps for protecting ourselves against debt is to: (1) List our income and all our outgoings to see how short we might be; (2) Look at what can be cut or where extra cash could come in; (3) Contact any companies, landlords or official bodies we owe money to and explain the situation and ask them to help; (4) Contact Stepchange Debt Charity or National Debtline if we feel we’re unable to keep on top of debts. (See our Useful Links page here).

I was okay working from home but now the schools are closed and it’s chaos at home. It’s impossible to work and my boss says I can’t get paid. It’s not my fault. Is this right?

This could become the hottest potato for government because bosses don’t have to pay staff who cannot work due to childcare.

According to ACAS, parents can only request unpaid leave to remain home for childcare reasons unless their contract says otherwise. So the starting point has to be: Check your contract. Unpaid leave for this will seem unfair to millions because this is not a normal situation – these are not school holidays.

But employers will also resist picking up the cost of staff who don’t work. That said, it is against the law for them to be seen to treat parents differently from staff without kids. If employed for more than half a year, workers are entitled to request ‘flexible working request’, (see ACAS advice here).

You could ask to move working hours to fit around your children’s needs or request to go part-time. The employer does not have to agree to this if it is too disruptive to their day-to-day business. Keep watching the government web page here on benefits available to people who are unable to work because of Coronavirus. They might be forced to offer support to parents in this position.

I don’t feel safe. Can I just tell my employer I’ll take this time off and claim the 80% of my wages from the government?

As staff, we don’t get to choose if we stay off or not unless we’re ill or self-isolating. The government promise of covering 80 per cent of wages is only where there is no work for people to do (because they cannot do their job from home), where that would otherwise mean our employer would make us redundant.

There’s a term many of us had not heard before, ‘furloughing’, which is where our job is retained but we’re asked not to work for a period. Most employers will keep paying us our full salary and, unless our employment contract allows for it (which is unlikely in most standard contracts), an employer needs to ask us first if they only want to pay us the 80 per cent of our wages covered by government.

But if we’re expected and able to work from home, or in the workplace if we’re a key worker, we don’t have the option of stopping work – unless we choose to quit. The government subsidy will only go to the employer. We cannot claim it ourselves.

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