Information on Jobcentres and the Coronavirus

Jobcentres throughout the UK have adopted and adjusted their operational models based on the prevailing conditions. Ideally, a Jobcentre gives out advice on the available jobs and also facilitates unemployment benefits to British citizens. The c...

Effects of the Corona Virus on Jobcentres

Jobcentres throughout the UK have adopted and adjusted their operational models based on the prevailing conditions. Ideally, a jobcentre gives out advice on the available jobs and also facilitates unemployment benefits to British citizens. The centres operate under the directive of the Department for Work and Pensions {DWP}.

So how have jobcentres been affected?

Benefit Claims to Be Done Remotely

Traditionally, benefit claimants were required to visit a jobcentre to apply for a benefit. However, to comply with the social distancing rule and to minimize the spread of the virus, claimants will be able to do this online or over a telephone call. This will be done based on trust.

According to an employer adviser manager, jobcentres will trust that you have provided them with correct data and disburse the funds to you, so you do not suffer financially.

You Will no Longer be Required to Produce a Fit Note

A fit note is an official written statement from a doctor indicating that you are unfit to work. Since it is assumed that doctors will be busy battling the virus, this requirement has been waived. Also, work availability requirements and mandatory work search have been postponed to account for the period you will be sick.

Universal Credit Applicants to be Assessed When the Situation Normalizes

If you lose your job during this period or suspect to have been in contact with a sick person, you are allowed to apply for a universal credit of up to one month’s advance without physically going to a jobcentre.

The same applies to sick and disabled claimants who find it impossible to visit a jobcentre for either Employment and Support Allowance or for Personal independence Payment. You will still receive your payment while your assessment is being rearranged.

ESA to be Processed Immediately

Usually, to get an Employment and Support Allowance and other financial support benefits, you would be required to wait for 7 days. However, if you are suffering from the Coronavirus, this request is processed immediately without you being physically assessed.

Measures for Employees and Self-Employed People

To ensure that employees and self-employed people do not suffer from financial loss when they take time off to prevent the spread of the virus, changes have been made on how Statutory Sick Pay is processed. Changes have also been made on how self-employed claimants can benefit from Universal Credit. These are:

If you contract the Coronavirus you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay instead of waiting for four days. These measures came in effect on 13th March 2020.

You will be eligible for Statutory Sick pay if you do not work based on a government directive. This means, if you stay at home without any government directive, then you will not be paid. At the same time, your employer will use his/her discretion on the evidence to ask from you.

Note: Since a fit note is no longer required, employees can prove that they are sick through NHS 111 online

Self-Employed People

If you are self-employed and you stay at home due to the coronavirus, you will not have an assumed level of income during the period of infection.

You will also receive a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly profits of over the last 24 months.

Business Related Measures

The government has announced fiscal and monetary measures to help employers stay in business. These measures include:

Job retention schemes
Deferred VAT policies
Deferred income tax policies
Sick pay relief packages

If you have less than 250 employees, your business can reclaim statutory sick pay if an employee is not able to work due to the coronavirus. Keep in mind that Statutory sick pay will be up to 2 weeks per employee.

Other government support measures include:

A 12-month business rate holiday for hospitality, leisure and retail
A business grant of £10,000 for all businesses
A grant of £25,000 for businesses in the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors
Loans of up to £5 million under the Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Department of Work and Pensions {DWP} has confirmed that no person will be penalized if they do not attend an appointment with a jobcentre. Jobcentres will, however, remain open to cater to the homeless people and those who cannot file a claim using a phone call.

For more information on support available to businesses, visit: Business Support

Getting an Isolation Note

If you are infected with the virus, you can get an isolation note in two ways:

Via the NHS website
Via the NHS app
Taking Your Children to School

Though government regulations require all children to remain at home, if you are a critical worker, your children can still attend school. Vulnerable children such as a social worker and those who are 25 years and below and have an education plan can also go to school.

Taking Care of Your Children

According to government regulations, you have the right to have time off to deal with an emergency involving a child, spouse or a dependent. Though there is no set amount of time to take care of your dependent, the time set must be reasonable.

When getting an annual or parental leave, the employer will decide whether to pay you as stipulated on your contract.

If Affected by the Coronavirus

You should be able to claim benefits. Other circumstances that allow you to claim benefits are:

You have lost your job
Your income has dropped because you can’t go to work
You’re earning less and self-employed
If You Have Been Fired Because of the Coronavirus

If you have been fired from your job because of the virus, your employer can pay you 80% of your pay but not more than £2500 per month. Keep in mind this is only possible if your employer signs up with the government’s retention scheme.

Are you Eligible for Statutory Sick Pay

Statutory Sick Pay {SSP} is only eligible to employed people according to government guidance. You also qualify for SSP if you are following a government directive to self-isolate or if you have contracted the coronavirus. Other qualifications for an SSP are:

You must be earning more than £118 a week
You must not be a business owner
You are self-isolating and can’t work from home
You may also Qualify for an SSP if you are on zero-hours contract and have a job offer

What Happens If I can’t Get SSP?

If you can’t get SSP, you can qualify for new style Employment Support Allowance {ESA} if you have the virus. To qualify for this, you must have met the minimum National Insurance contributions for the years 2017-2018 up to 2020.

Another way to get ESA is to care for a child who has being instructed to self-isolate.

If You’ve not Claimed Benefits Before

Even though you have not claimed benefits before, you can still claim SSP and Universal Credit if you meet the requirements. If you are struggling to pay your bills, check out what to do on citizen’s advice.

If you are Already Claiming Benefits

Due to the coronavirus, you can still get more money. If your income has dropped and you cannot pay for rent, notify your local council immediately.

If You are Working on Tax Credits

To get a tax credit, your income must fall by £2,500 or more within a tax year. Keep in mind if you claim your salary will drop by £2,500 and it does not, you will have to pay back any extra money you get. To avoid owing the government, it is crucial you claim Universal Credit instead.

Note: You won’t get working tax credit if you claim Universal Credit

Have jobcentres been affected by the virus? Yes. Demand for jobs has significantly reduced while the demand for claims has shot up the roof. It is not clear when the UK will become pandemic free, but jobcentres are helping to reduce the spread of the virus by advising claimants to stay at home.

Please visit Understanding Universal Credit for regular official updates.

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