Coronavirus and your finances
Published 26 March 2020
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the UK Government has announced some new temporary financial regulations. We’ve gathered up all the important details you might need.
Statutory Sick Pay
If you’re off work because you’re sick, your employer will pay £94.25 a week. This is called Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and it can be paid out for up to 28 weeks. Until recently, you could claim SSP if you’d been off work for four or more days.
Is SSP changing?
The government has changed regulations around SSP so that it starts from the first day you’re off work.
The most recent change has come as you can now claim SSP if you’ve been asked to stay at home because either you or someone you live with has shown symptoms of coronavirus. For more details on whether you’re entitled to SSP if you’re in self-quarantine, we’d recommend speaking to your employer.
Will I need a sick note to claim SSP?
Anyone off work for more than seven days usually needs a sick note from their doctor to say they’ve been unwell. As people are being told to stay away from GP surgeries if they’ve been showing symptoms, sick notes can be obtained from NHS 111 online.
What if I’m self-employed?
Self-employed people can’t get SSP, but they can make claims through the Employment and Support Allowance. As with SSP, claims can be made from the first day that you’re off work sick.
The government has announced that if your company can’t afford to pay your wages, they can claim 80% of it through a grant so that you can still get paid until things go back to normal. This way, companies that have had their business affected by coronavirus, like pubs or gyms, don’t have to let their staff go.
This scheme is called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and it will run until at least June 2020 backdated from March 1st. The government has also said that it could go on longer if needed.
What are furloughed workers?
To become eligible, you’ll become a “furloughed worker”, which means you’ll stay employed and paid by your company even though you’re not doing any work. An important point is that you can’t do any other jobs while classified as a furloughed worker.
Can I claim benefits if my salary is reduced?
Some people whose salaries are cut may become eligible for additional financial support (including Universal Credit). To figure out if you can get any help, go to entitledto’s Benefits Calculator and enter your information (including your new salary).
Can self-employed people claim salary support?
It was announced on Thursday 26th March that self-employed people will be able to apply for grants worth 80% of their average monthly revenue over the past three years. The grants will be capped at £2,500 per month.
The grants can be backdated to the start of March as long as income tax was filed in January. For those who missed the January submission, the government has announced a four-week deadline for all remaining tax to be submitted, with all fines due in May for late payment set to be wiped. This means any income tax will need to be completed before Thursday 23rd April.
The announcement also said that money for the grants will not be paid until June. Because of this, self-employed people will still be able to work while claiming these grants. The only other criteria are:
- Half of income needs to have come from self-employment and declared on the tax return
- Earnings must be under £50,000 a year
Furthermore, company owners will not be able to cover dividends that they pay themselves using the grant.
Changes to benefits payments
The standard levels of Working Tax Credits and Universal Credit will increase by £20 a week from Monday 6th April. Added to this, Local Housing Allowances are changing from April. The change will mean more people will be eligible for rental support through Universal Credit. To see if you can get help, use entitledto’s Benefits Calculator.
Mortgage and loan repayment holidays
Some banks have announced that people struggling to pay back loans or mortgages can take payment holidays until they can continue with their repayments. These holidays will only be available for those whose income has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. You won’t incur any charges for taking a payment holiday, and your credit score won’t change as a result of it either.
No announcements have been made about freezes on rental payments at this time. The advice from charity Shelter is to speak with your landlord if you have concerns about your rent and see if they’re willing to take a mortgage holiday.
Landlords cannot begin the eviction process unless you’ve missed three months. Social landlords have also assured tenants that there will be no evictions owing to financial difficulties during the coronavirus outbreak.
At the moment, no changes have been made to council tax payments ahead of the new year of payments beginning in April. If you miss a monthly council tax payment, you might be asked to then pay the entire fee in one go. So if you have concerns about being able to afford the bill next month, speak with your council as soon as possible and they’ll be able to advise on what to do.
The best thing to do if you’re worried about payments is to speak with the provider. While they might not be able to freeze your payments, they can set up payment plans and look at switching you to a cheaper tariff. The same goes for any finance agreements you have (e.g. Personal Contract Purchase on a car).
There is credit available for people on prepaid meters, and you can get this by speaking to your provider. For more information on credit for prepaid meters, take a look at the recommendations from Citizens Advice.
Advice on your finances
For the best advice on how to manage your finances during this difficult time, we’d recommend heading to the Money Advice Service’s dedicated coronavirus page.