With the UK now under lockdown, the government has been forced to introduce a series of emergency measures in order to support workers.
While the government is to cover 80 per cent of salaries for all UK employers under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, supporting workers who would otherwise have been laid off, the current health crisis poses greater uncertainty for those who are self-employed.
However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the government will help to pay people’s wages and offer support to those who work for themselves.
Can self-employed workers claim Universal Credit?
If you are self-employed you are able to claim Universal Credit, provided you meet the usual eligibility criteria, according to gov.uk.
This criteria includes the following:
- you’re on a low income or out of work
- you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
- you’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)
- you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
- you live in the UK
The Chancellor has said he will suspend the minimum income floor (MIF), which applies to those who have been self-employed for more than 12 months.
The MIF assumes that those who are self-employed work 35 hours per week and earn the minimum wage. However, from 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed.
This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants, and will last for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak. New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment.
Can self-employed workers claim sick pay?
Self-employed workers do not have access to statutory sick pay (SSP), but the government has said that if you are ill, or you have been advised to self-isolate, you will be able to claim Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
If you are eligible for new style ESA, it will now be payable from day one of sickness, rather than day eight, if you have coronavirus or are advised to stay at home.
The weekly payment for ESA is typically £73.10 or £57.90 for people under the age of 25.However, the Chancellor has said that he is raising the payments for Universal Credit to allow the self-employed to receive the same amount as someone on SSP - £94.25 a week.
To make a claim for the new style ESA, you can apply on the government website.
You will need to fill out an NSESAF1 claim form, which can either be downloaded and printed, or you can call the Universal Credit helpline to get one sent through the post, or via email.
To contact the helpline call 0800 328 5644, or textphone 0800 328 1344.
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?
As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
As of Monday 23 March the prime minister has put the UK into lockdown and instructed all citizens to stay at home. People can only leave their homes to exercise once a day, go shopping for food and medication, travel for medical needs or to care for a vulnerable person, and travel to work only if essential. Police will be able to enforce these restrictions.
All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will playgrounds, places of worship and libraries. Large events or gatherings of more than two people cannot go ahead, including weddings and celebrations. Funerals can only be attended by immediate family.Children of separated parents can go between both parents' homes.
Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.
The government has now instructed bars, restaurants, theatres and non-essential businesses to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis. Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.
The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate. People with serious underlying health conditions will be contacted and strongly advised to undertake "shielding" for 12 weeks.
For more information on government advice, please check their website gov.uk
Should I avoid public places?
You should now avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. 111.nhs.uk/covid-19
When to call NHS 111
NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS