COVID-19: Employment support and advice

The Government have set out a number of measures to support employees affected by the disruption to businesses caused by COVID-19.

These measures include advice and support on:

Guidance is being updated in line with the changing situation on Gov.uk

Advice for employees

Staying at home

If you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, please follow medical advice and stay at home. Do not leave your house for 7 days from when your symptoms started. Government advice to employers is to encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.

For more advice see the government's stay at home guidance,

Sick pay (SSP)

You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

If you are staying at home because of COVID-19 you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.

To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) page for more information.

SSP start date

The Government are legislating for SSP to be paid from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to stay at home due to COVID-19.

Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March. You should talk to your employer if you are eligible for SSP and need to claim.

If you’re self-employed or not eligible for SSP

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance.

If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home.

Please refer to our support for the self employed page for more information.

Furloughed workers

If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access support to continue paying part of your wage, to avoid redundancies.

If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being made redundant.

To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to. If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

Claiming benefits

Whether you are currently in or out of work, if you are on a low income and affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, you will be able to access the full range of the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

From 6 April the Government are 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.

If you have COVID-19 or are staying at home, you are now able to claim Universal Credit, and if required can access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a jobcentre.

If you are already claiming benefits

Changes to Jobcentre appointments

People receiving benefits do not have to attend Jobcentre appointments for three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020.

People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended.

You should not attend the jobcentre unless directed to do so for an exceptional purpose, for example to collect your Payment Exception Service vouchers.

People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible.

If you apply for Universal Credit you will need to make an appointment for your new claim interview. This interview will take place by telephone with a work coach. You will be given the number to call to book this appointment when you have submitted your claim.

If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible.

If you are staying at home due to COVID-19, you can now claim Universal Credit online.

Changes to health assessments

Considering the current coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits. This is aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus and safeguarding the health of individuals claiming health and disability benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk due to their pre-existing health conditions.

If you already have an assessment appointment arranged, you do not need to attend. Your assessment provider will contact you to discuss your appointment and explain the next steps to you.

If you have made a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) but do not have a date for an assessment appointment, you do not need to do anything. You will be contacted shortly by telephone or letter to let you know what will happen next.

If you are already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or IIDB you will continue to receive your current payments as normal.

If you have made a new claim or wish to make a new claim, DWP will continue to take claims for all benefits.

You are able to claim Universal Credit, providing you meet the usual eligibility criteria.

Council tax: COVID-19 Hardship Fund

Wandsworth Council has confirmed it will be relaxing its normal rules on rent arrears and non-payment of council tax. No enforcement or recovery action will be initiated against people who fall behind with their council tax payments.

As part of its response to COVID-19, the government announced in the Budget on 11 March that it would provide local authorities in England with £500 million of new grant funding to support economically vulnerable people and households in their local area. With some people facing reduced incomes or job losses as a result of the outbreak. Further information on this will follow.

Mortgage Payment Holidays

The Government has announced that all homeowners will be able to claim a three-month break from their mortgage repayments if they are unable to pay because of coronavirus.

Read about mortgage payment holidays.

Protection for renters affected by coronavirus

The Government has announced measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus. As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time.

Skills Toolkit

The Government has recently produced a new online Skills Toolkit which provides easy to access, free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up skills, progress in work and boost job prospects. The platform offers a range of courses at all levels from introductory to advanced and is open to everyone, whether they have been recently furloughed and want to learn new skills, are out of work or are just keen to keep busy during time spent at home.

Further support and resources

We will continue to keep this page up to date as more information becomes available.

In the meantime, you can also find support from the following resources: