Income: how to get the help you need

We’re on a mission to help everyone move on up to a better financial future, so we’ve put together this guide on what to do if your work has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, or if you're out of work right now. It's updated on a regular basis, but check the government website for further information.


Getting paid

What happens if I’m self-isolating?

If you’re self-isolating, you should be entitled to your usual, contractual sick pay from your employer.



What is the rate of statutory sick pay (SSP)?

You qualify for SSP if you normally earn over £118 a week. If you have symptoms of coronavirus you will get £94.25 a week of SSP.

SSP is now payable from your first day sick, not the fourth.



What if I’m self-employed and self-isolating?

For those self-employed, you can make a claim for Universal Credit and 'New Style' Employment and Support Allowance. Check the government websites for more details.



What if I am on furlough?

Some companies have put employees on furlough. This means you’re not working as the company is temporarily closed, or can’t afford to have all its employees working at the moment.

If you’ve been put on furlough, the government has confirmed you can get 80% of your wages, capped at £2,500, a month through the Coronavirus job retention scheme. Wages will be backdated to March 1st. Your employer will organise this for you.

You can be put on furlough if you’re a worker in a PAYE system, even if you’re on a zero hour contract.

For more information about being in furlough and the coronavirus job retention scheme, visit the dedicated government website.



My child’s school is closed

If you’re a key worker (NHS, emergency services, supermarket worker), you can send your children to school. You can see a full list of key workers here.

Companies can now put you on furlough if you need to take time off to look after your children at home. Speak to your employer to see if this is possible. If you can’t be put on furlough, parents are entitled to take time off in this situation, but this may not all be paid.



What about Universal Credit and benefits?

Universal Credit is available for those on a low income (there is no longer a minimum) and who are unemployed. The amount has been increased due to the coronavirus.

The amount you get depends on various factors, such as age and if you live with anyone. You can apply for Universal Credit on the government website, but the process may take longer than usual.



I already claim Universal Credit and Housing Benefit

If you claim the Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you should also see an increase, as this is going up in line with rent costs.




Redundancy

I was made redundant

If you were made redundant before the government brought in the coronavirus job retention scheme, you may be able to get your job back and receive 80% of your pay as a ‘furloughed worker.’

You can challenge your redundancy by writing to your employer and appealing. You can write that the coronavirus job retention scheme means they can afford to pay you, so don’t need to be made redundant.



My employer won’t change my redundancy

If you can’t change the redundancy and won’t get paid, ask for a reason in writing and contact Citizens Advice for help.



I’m worried about losing my job

Companies have the option to make you ‘furloughed.’ This means you will take unpaid leave, but your employer can apply for the job retention scheme and you will receive 80% of your pay, up to £2,500 per month.




Self-employed and business owners

I’m self-employed but no longer working. What can I do?

The government announced that self-employed workers can claim 80% of their monthly earnings, averaged over the last three years, and capped at £2,500 a month.



What if I’ve been self-employed for less than 3 years?

If you’ve been self-employed for less than three years, the average monthly earnings will be calculated from the entire time you have been self-employed.



Is everyone eligible?

Not quite. You must have an annual income of less than £50,000 and more than half of it must be from your self-employed work. You also must have filed a tax return for the 2018/19 tax year.



How do I apply?

HMRC will contact everyone who is eligible and you’ll have to complete an online form. See more details here.

The money should be paid at the beginning of June. The figure will cover March, April and May earnings.



What can I do in the meantime?

If you’re self-employed with no work, you can apply for Universal Credit, which is being increased. You can do this online.



What about taxes for this financial year?

Self-employed workers will be able to defer payments for 2019/20 until January 2021, giving you longer to pay.



I own my own business. What can I do?

The government wants to support business owners during this time, so new schemes and measures are in place.

The government has introduced a business interruption loan scheme. This involves small businesses applying for loans, overdrafts and more via their lender online.

All hospitality and leisure businesses will not pay business rates for the 2020/21 tax year. Some of these businesses may also get a grant. Businesses don’t need to do anything right now as the local authority will automatically apply the business rate holiday and contact your business if you qualify for the grant.

Some small businesses are also eligible for grants of £10,000. These are only available if you operate from a property and are based in England.

Businesses that qualify must pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief, rural rate relief, or tapered relief. Local authorities will write to businesses who qualify.

If you own a small business, find out more about the grants available and what you can do on this dedicated government website.



What if my employees are off sick?

If your employees took time off due to the Coronavirus, it’s now possible for them to get SSP for two weeks. All those with UK businesses with under 250 employees can qualify for this. The process is currently a work-in-progress.




Cashflow

If you’re concerned about cashflow at the moment, look at your current incomings and outgoings to see if there are ways to use savings, and reduce debt and interest.

Contact your lenders as soon as possible if you’re struggling with credit card, loan or mortgage payments.



Should I use my savings?

Using savings could be a good way to get out of debt and cover essential purchases. But, it will depend on your individual circumstances.

With the interest rate now at just 0.1%, you won’t see much return on your savings right now.

Some banks are allowing customers to access savings from fixed-rate accounts without a fee, but you might not find an interest rate as good right now if you want to put the money back into a savings account later.



What about credit card debt?

If you’re accumulating interest on a credit card, check your eligibility to move it to an interest-free balance transfer card. That means you can move the credit you’ve spent to another card and repay it over a set number of months — interest-free.

There is a transfer fee to move it, but this often works out cheaper than keeping the balance on your current card.


Check your eligibility for balance transfer cards

You’ll start paying interest on any leftover balance once the offer ends, so it’s a good idea to try and clear the balance by this time. Make sure you keep up with all your repayments, otherwise the offer could be taken away.

Some of these offers may be reduced in the coming months and it might be harder to get accepted, so it’s best to check sooner, rather than later, if this could be a good option for you.



Getting cash from your credit card

Many lenders are letting customers withdraw cash using their credit card, without being charged a cash advance fee. Check with your lender beforehand if you want to do this, and remember that interest will still be added.




Pensions

State pensions are unaffected by the coronavirus. Other types of pensions may be affected by the fall in the stock market, as many pensions are invested in stocks and shares.



I’m worried about my pension

If you’re not near retirement age, you won’t need to worry as the market will likely recover before you retire.

If you have a pension, it’s likely that your pension is invested in different places, some being safer than others right now. You should be able to check with your pension company how it’s doing, or check your online account.




I’m worried about getting into debt

Debt charity Stepchange offers free help and advice to those struggling. They can guide you through sensitive matters, and have a host of information on their website about debt and coronavirus.

Their phone lines are still open but there are less staff working, so bear this in mind when calling.

Visit the Stepchange website

Citizens Advice is also available to give free and confidential advice. They cover a range of issues, including debt. As well as guides and information online, you can talk to someone online and over the phone, though this may take longer than usual at the moment.

Visit the Citizens Advice website