Changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
In the Budget on Wednesday 11th March, changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Benefit Measures were announced to ensure you are not penalised for doing the right thing in self-isolating. These change have already come into effect and will:
Extend Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to those who are self-isolating in line with Government health guidance.
Adjust the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) rules to ensure you are entitled to money from day 1, and those who are self-employed are supported, including in the gig-economy, to receive welfare payments for periods of self-isolation.
This change helps to provide certainty that (if eligible) you are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay if you are following UK Government advice in relation to coronavirus. This includes if you are self isolating as a precautionary measure without symptoms.
If you are on a zero hours contract, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. This will depend how many hours you have worked regularly and income received, but you should contact your employer directly to find out more.
These changes also mean that if you are affected by Coronavirus, will be able to access the benefit system without the need for medical evidence or to attend a work capability assessment. The seven waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance for new claims will not apply. It will be payable from day one.
These changes will ensure that if you are affected by Coronavirus, work search and work availability requirements within Universal Credit are switched off. They will also provide access to other support within Universal Credit, such as a work allowance and childcare support for if you have a partner who is still able to work. If you are self-employed, you will also not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time within Universal Credit.
If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay home, you can get an 'isolation note' by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a 'fit note'. To get an isolation note, visit: https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/screener-question
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus, with employers able to claim for 80% of furloughed employees' (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage cost, up to £2,500 a month. For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
Universal Credit (UC)
Those who are not eligible for SSP, can now make a claim for Universal Credit or an enhanced Employment and Support Allowance. People will be able to claim UC without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate. To make a claim, visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit or phone the universal Credit helpline 0800 328 5644 (textphone: 0800 328 1344)
Face to Face Assessments for Health and Disability Benefits
Following the Coronavirus outbreak, face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have been suspended for the next three months.
It is a precautionary measure to protect the most vulnerable from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus. It ensures those entitled to receive the benefit receive support, and new claimants are able to access a safety net.
It covers claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), as well as some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. It also covers new claims to these benefits.
Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 17th March onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve telephone or paper-based assessments. These measures will be in place for the next three months, but the position will be reviewed regularly. No further action is required by any claimant.
DWP will continue to accept new claims for all benefits. Anyone already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, will continue to receive their current payments as normal while alternative arrangements are put in place to review or reassess their claim.
A letter from the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson MP, sets out the changes in more detail below.
- UK Government, Universal Credit and coronavirus
- UK Government, Increase of Working Tax Credits by £20 a week (23 March)
- UK Government, Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits will be temporarily suspended for the next 3 months from Tuesday 17 March (16 March)
- House of Commons Library, Coronavirus: Claiming welfare benefits
- Step Change debt charity, Debt and coronavirus