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Coronavirus  &  Employment

21st May 2020

Our Welfare Advice service at WAVE Trauma Centre continues to operate
 by telephone and email and are available to help you.

We know that this a difficult time for everyone, we are here to provide you with advice, information and assistance.  If you require advice or assistance, please don’t hesitate to telephone or email your local WAVE Centre and a Welfare adviser will contact you.

WAVE Centre Armagh:                                028-37511599      Email:  info.armagh@wavetrauma.org

WAVE Centre Belfast:                                  028-90779922      Email:  adminhq@wavetrauma.org

WAVE Centre Ballymoney:                         028-27669900      Email:  info.ballymoney@wavetrauma.org

WAVE Centre Omagh:                                 028-82252522      Email:  info.omagh@wavetrauma.org

WAVE Centre Derry/Londonderry            028-71266655      Email:  info.derry@wavetrauma.org

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on businesses affecting both employees and the self-employed.

The government has introduced a number of measures to assist businesses and help workers.  We have outlined some information on benefits and schemes introduced by the government to support employees and the self-employed, and online training.  Please contact us if you require further information.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If you cannot work while you’re self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you could get SSP from the first day you are in isolation.  You must self-isolate for at least 4 days to be eligible.

if you’ve been ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) on or after 13 March 2020 and you’re eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, you will get a backdated payment. Sick Pay (SSP) is paid at a rate of £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks.

From 16 April 2020 Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) has been extended to include anyone identified as extremely vulnerable and at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) and who is advised to remain at home and cannot work for at least 12 weeks (this is known as shielding).  For further information on eligibility for SSP please contact our Welfare Advice Team.

If you are not eligible to receive sick pay, or if you are self-employed and self isolating you may be able to apply for Universal Credit and/or New Style Employment & Support Allowance.  You can also apply for these if you are prevented from working because of a risk to public health.  Please contact our Welfare Advice team for further advice before claiming these benefits to see if this is the best option for you.

Tax Credits

If you already receive Tax Credits and have a drop in your income or working hours or are ill because of COVID19 you may be able to continue to claim Tax Credits for a period of time. If you lose your job, your Tax Credit payments will stop and you will need to make a claim for Universal Credit. You can’t receive Universal Credit and Tax Credits at the same time.  We would advise you to seek further information and advice before making a claim for new benefit.

Universal Credit

New claims to Universal Credit can still be made on-line with additional telephone support available via the Universal Credit Service Centre if you need help with a new claim.

If you’re working while claiming Universal Credit, your payment will be adjusted if you can no longer work due to coronavirus (COVID-19) or if your hours have reduced.  Inform your Work Coach via your UC Journal in your online account. You will be treated as having limited capability for work from the start of your claim without a fit note, an assessment or some form of statutory public health notice.

From 30 March 2020 for the next three months, work search and work availability requirements will be removed for new and existing claims to Universal Credit.  You must still tell report changes to your circumstances by signing in to your Universal Credit online account.

COVID-19 and lack of work

If your employer has no work for you do due to COVID-19 pandemic, they may consider the following:

  1. Applying to the Job Retention Scheme
  2. Temporary Layoff or Short time working
  3. Redundancy
Job retention scheme

If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’.  Your employer could pay 80% of your regular wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, up to a monthly cap of £2,500.  You’ll still be paid by your employer and pay taxes from your income. You cannot undertake work for your employer while on furlough.

Eligibility:  You can be on any type of contract, including a flexible or zero-hour contract or a temporary contract.  You must have been employed on 19 March 2020, and on your employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020.  If your contract expired before this date, click on the following link to see you could still be eligible for this scheme:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#fixedtermcontract

Employees who were made redundant or stopped working for an employer on or after 28th February 2020 could be re-employed and put on furlough, even if not re-employed until after 19 March 2020 subject to some conditions. Employees who are unable to work due to caring responsibilities can be furloughed e.g. if they are caring for children.

The Job retention scheme is temporary scheme that was initially put in place for 4 months starting from 1 March 2020 and will continue in its current form until the end of July. Employers can use the scheme anytime during this period. From August, employers currently using the scheme will have more flexibility to bring their furloughed employees back to work part time whilst still receiving support from the scheme.  This will run for three months from August through to the end of October. Employers will be asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.

If you require any further information on the Job retention scheme, please contact our Welfare Advice Team.

Temporary Layoff & Short time working:

This is not an option for all employers as the right to lay-off or to introduce short-time working must be present in the contract of employment you signed for.  If you are off work for at least one complete working day, this is a lay-off.  You should get your full pay unless it is part of your contract that your employer can lay you off without pay or on reduced pa, otherwise you may be eligible for a ‘statutory guarantee payment’ from your employer.  You will remain an employee unless you resign or are notified that you are no longer employed.  If you have a reduced income, contact our welfare advice team for information and advice on which benefits you could claim.

Where your employer asks you to work some of the week but you are laid off for a day or more in the week, then you are on ‘short-time’ working. This means your hours of work are cut.  There is no upper limit for how long you can be laid-off or put on short-time. You may be able to claim redundancy pay if you are laid-off without pay or put on short-time for either four consecutive weeks or six weeks within a 13 week period.

For further information on lay off or short time working, please contact our Welfare Advice Team

Redundancy
Right to notice:

If your employer has selected you for redundancy you must be given a notice period before your employment ends. The statutory redundancy notice periods are:

  • at least one week’s notice if you have been employed between one month and two years
  • one week’s notice for each year if employed between two and 12 years
  • 12 weeks’ notice if employed for 12 years or more

However, you should also check your contract of employment because your employer could have set out longer notice periods.  In some cases, your employer may have included a payment in lieu of notice clause in your employment contract. This means that your employer can end your employment contract with no notice, but they must give you payment for all of the pay you would have received during the notice period.

Redundancy Pay:

You have the right to a statutory redundancy payment if you are an employee who has worked continuously for your employer for at least two years and you are being made redundant.  How much redundancy pay you get depends on your wage, how long you have worked at the company and your age. When your employer gives you your redundancy payment they must also give you a statement showing how it was calculated.

Fair procedure:

Your employer has responsibilities to treat you fairly and follow the correct process if they are considering making redundancies. They should think about any alternatives to making you redundant.  Redundancy is dismissal from your job, caused by your employer needing to reduce the workforce.  Employers should always consult with you before making you redundant. The consultation should aim to provide you with a way to influence the redundancy process.  Your employer should use a fair and objective way of selecting people to make redundant.  It should be evidence based rather than your employer just deciding who they want to make redundant.

If you feel that your employer has selected you unfairly you should appeal against the decision. Put your appeal in writing and explain what you want your employer to do to put the situation right. The way in which you were selected will affect whether your redundancy is considered fair by an Industrial Tribunal.

If you are Self-Employed

If you or a member of your household has symptoms of COVID-19 you must stay at home. If you’re self-employed and cannot work due to coronavirus (COVID-19), you can may be eligible to make a new claim online for Universal Credit. From 6 April 2020, the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for UC and will last for the duration of the outbreak.  You may also be able to claim New Style Employment & Support Allowance.  If you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have been adversely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) you may be eligible for a grant under the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SISS).

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SISS)

The scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months, and capped at £7,500 altogether. This is a temporary scheme, but it may be extended.

If you receive the grant you can continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work, or duties as an armed forces reservist.  The grant does not need to be repaid but will be subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance.  HMRC will work out if you’re eligible and how much grant you may get. You must make the claim yourself. Your tax agent or adviser must not claim on your behalf as this will trigger a fraud alert, and you will have to contact HMRC. This will cause a significant delay to you receiving your payment.  Further information on the scheme and who can claim can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

If you are receiving Universal Credit, payment of the grant will be taken into account.  For further information please contact our welfare advice team

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Other forms of business support can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for workers

The current advice from the NI Executive is – stay work from home where possible, using phone, email and teleconferencing to stay in touch.   To combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), on 28th March 2020, the  Northern Ireland Executive  placed certain restrictions on businesses and services.  Some businesses can continue to operate but are under a legal duty to adopt social distancing measures and look after the health and safety of their employees.  If you feel under pressure by your employer to return to work but do not feel safe – please contact our welfare advice line.

Online training available

If you’ve lost your job as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) and want to develop your skills to help you look for work, there are many free online courses available, including courses offered by the Open University.  More details can be found on the nidirect website:

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/online-training-support

 

Please note: 

Although we have made every effort to ensure the information contained in this bulletin is correct, we cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or their consequences. The information in this document should not be treated as a complete and authoritative statement of the law. Last updated 20.05.20