The government understands people who are required to stay at home or are infected by COVID-19 may need financial support, and quickly.
It has announced that:
- those affected by COVID-19 will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre
- the 7 waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for new claimants will not apply if they are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home – so it will be payable from day one.
Statutory sick pay and universal credit
To make sure people in work can take the necessary time off to stay at home if they are suffering from COVID-19 or to prevent its spread, changes have been made to Statutory Sick Pay and how Universal Credit supports self-employed claimants.
- People who cannot work due to COVID-19 and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness – the government intends to legislate so this measure applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020
- Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020 after regulations were laid on 12 March 2020 – employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for
- If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 Online instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor – this is currently under development and will be made available soon
- Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.
For those who find themselves in financial difficulties due to COVID-19, mortgage lenders are to offer a 3-month mortgage holiday. Individuals should contact their mortgage providers directly to request a payment holiday.
Universal Credit changes and Working Tax Credit changes
From 6 April the government is increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for 1 year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.
Further information on how to apply can be found here: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/