Advice lines open

During the Coronavirus crisis we will be keeping this page up to date with information relating to employment, benefits, housing, immigration and crime. This is an evolving situation so make sure to check the links we refer to and the gov.uk website or call us for advice.

Whilst our office is closed, you can call our advice lines to speak to a solicitor or caseworker.

Employment (020 8144 0954 + 020 8638 7429)
Wednesday 12 – 2pm
Friday 12 – 2pm

Welfare Benefits (020 8638 7429)
Tuesday 1 – 3pm
Thursday 1- 3pm

Housing (020 3289 8345)
Tuesday 10 – 1pm

Immigration & Asylum (020 8638 8379)
Monday 10-1pm
Thursday 10-1pm
Friday 10-12pm

Windrush compensation (020 8638 8379)
Wednesday 10 – 12pm

Employment

General Guidance and Advice

If you would like advice and support from our employment team please complete our online form.

You can find general guidance from the folowing sources:
ACAS
Gov.uk
Citizens Advice

Job Retention Scheme (Furlough)

The Job Retention Scheme will cover staff costs for employees who are not working due to COVID-19.  You would be placed on “furlough” in this case. The scheme will run for at least 3 months and is expected to be up and running by the end of April.

More guidance is available on Gov.uk.

  • The scheme will cover 80% of the wages (up to a total of £2,500 per month)
  • The scheme can be backdated to cover wages from 1 March 2020.
  • The scheme does not cover employees who are off sick or in isolation but if you are shielded in line with public health guidance, you can be on furlough.  
  • The scheme covers both full-time and part-time employees, agency employees, flexible and zero-hours employees.
  • To be eligible, you will need to agree to ‘furlough leave’ with your employer.
  • Employers can top-up the remaining 20% of your pay, something employees can negotiate collectively where possible or on an individual basis.
  • Any furlough agreements should be in writing. It’s a good idea to include:
    • the date furlough starts
    • when it will be reviewed
    • how to keep in contact during furlough
  • You will stay employed while you are furloughed, but you must not work.
    If you are furloughed you will have the same employment rights as before.

Sick Pay

If you’re employed and get coronavirus, you’ll get statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day you’re ill.

You won’t have to give your employer proof you’re ill for the first 7 days. After 7 days, they can ask to see a ‘fit note’ to prove you’re too ill to work. Don’t ask your GP for a fit note – get one from the 111 coronavirus service.

If you’re not ill but you’re following government guidance to ‘self-isolate’ and you can’t work from home, you’ll be entitled to SSP. You can get an ‘isolation note’ online to prove to your employer you need to stay off work.

You may also be eligible for contractual sick pay, check you contract for details or ask Human Resources or your trade union representative.

Further information:
www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/rights-at-work/sick-pay/check-if-youre-entitled-to-sick-pay/

Lay-offs and short time working

Your employer can ask you to stay at home or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work for you. A lay-off is if you’re off work for at least 1 working day. Short-time working is when your hours are cut.

You should get your full pay unless your contract allows unpaid or reduced pay lay-offs.

Further information: www.gov.uk/lay-offs-short-timeworking
www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/leaving-a-job/redundancy/layoffs-and-short-time-working/

Homeworking

If you are working from home, your employer has the same health and safety responsibilities to you as any other worker. More information on what your employer should be doing can be found here: www.acas.org.uk/working-from-home

Self-employed scheme

  • a new self-employed income support scheme will pay self-employed people a taxable grant worth 80% of average monthly income, capped at £2,500pm  
  • income will be calculatedt by taking the average of income over the last three years
  • the scheme will be open to people across UK for at least 3 months. 
  • However, the scheme is unlikely to be up and running before the end of June, so it will not help with immediate cash flow problems
  • the scheme is only open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50k and who makes the majority of income from self-employment. 
  • the scheme is also only open  to those who have submitted a tax return for 2019 (this is to minimise fraud).  However, if you did not submit a  tax return by 31 January 2020, you can still do so up until April 23rd.
  • You cannot make a claim for this grant at present .HMRC will be contacting  eligible self-employed people directly to fill out an online form .
  • self-employed people can claim these grants and continue to do business This is very different from furlough leave, where employees have to remain at home and do no work 
More details are available on Gov.Uk

Criminal defence

Magistrates’ courts currently are only covering urgent work (overnight custody and people brought from prison) so any non-emergency appearances previously scheduled are automatically postponed until further notice. Crown Courts are also only conducting emergency work and all jury trials that have not already started are currently postponed.
 
If you are arrested and bailed without appearing before a court, it is likely any further hearings will be postponed several months until the courts fully re-open. Police investigations are still ongoing so if you asked to come in for a police station interview, please contact us and we will see if we can assist you. 
 
Information about new police powers relating to Coronavirus can be foung on gov.uk

Benefits

Last updated: 6 May 2020

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus, you might be able to claim benefits or get more money on your current benefits.
If you need welfare benefits advice  please call on 020 8969 7473, email info@nklc.co.uk

Some recent benefit changes and assistance during the coronavirus crisis

What to claim in particular circumstances

  1. If you are already receiving welfare benefits, these will continue as normal. There have been changes announced as to how existing benefits are being administered.
  2. If you have a severe disability, you may be eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) if you are over 16 but under 65. If you are over 65 you may be eligible for Attendance Allowance. If you are under 16 you may be eligible for Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
  3. If you become sick because of coronavirus. Firstly check your contract of employment this will govern what, if any sick pay your employer will pay. If you are not entitled to any contractual sick pay, you can claim statutory sick pay.
  4. If you cannot work because of coronavirus and you are still employed, you could be eligible for assistance from the government job retention scheme.
  5. If you are self employed and unable to work due to coronavirus, you could be eligible for the government self employment scheme. The grants will start to be paid in June 2020
  6. If you become unemployed you may be able to claim New Style Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Eligibility depends on payment of class 1 national insurance contributions over the last two years. New Style JSA is not means tested, so income and capital will not affect the amount you receive. You can also claim Universal Credit if you become unemployed. You can receive both New Style JSA and Universal Credit, but the JSA will be treated as an income and affect the amount of UC you receive.
  7. Many existing welfare benefits have been abolished for new claimants. If you become unemployed, or your income drops, you can make a claim for Universal Credit. You can do this online, or there is a facility to make a claim on the telephone. Universal Credit pays different elements depending on your circumstances. You can receive a standard allowance for you and if you have one a partner. You can then qualify for various other elements depending on circumstances. If you pay rent you may qualify for the housing element.
    There is an element payable for children. There is an element for disabled children. There is an element payable for child care costs although at present this is limited to essential workers.
    There is an element if you are a carer.
    If you have an incapacity that prevents you from being able to seek work, there are two elements for this. Which incapacity element you receive depends on the level and nature of your incapacity.
  8. Universal Credit is a means tested benefit, meaning that income and capital are taken into account. However if your income drops or you have a low income, you may still qualify for Universal Credit. You should always notify changes in income.
  9. Universal Credit can stop existing claims for benefits and tax credits, therefore seek advice before claiming if you have an existing claim.

Health and Disability Benefits

This includes PIP, Attendance Allowance, DLA, ESA, the disability elements of Universal Credit, Industrial Injuries Benefit. 

All Face to face assessments have been cancelled. 

Sickness and disability benefit reviews and reassessments are also being suspended for the next three months.  Awards for health and disability benefits are being extended automatically for six months. 

People are being advised that they do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for at least three months. 

The changes, will apply from 26 March

It means there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all sickness and disability benefits – including universal credit, employment and support allowance (ESA), personal independence payment (PIP), disability living allowance, attendance allowance and industrial injuries disablement benefit – for at least the next three months.

However for assessments already underway

  • for PIP, if an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed and, if an assessment has been scheduled, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider to discuss how it will be taken forward;
  • for ESA and universal credit, claimants whose cases have been referred to the provider will be contacted to take it forward;
  • if people experience a change in their needs, they are still encouraged to contact the DWP to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support;
  • where awards are due to expire, they will be extended so that claimants continue to receive financial support at their current rate.

Universal Credit

All new claims for benefit.  Those receiving existing benefits should seek advice before claiming as UC has big winners and losers.  For unemployed people and those with a low income.  People who receive PIP or DLA might be able to claim other benefits instead.

You can apply for an advance of Universal Credit.  The advances will need to be repaid.

The waiting period has been suspended, so people should be able to get payments as soon as UC is administered.

Work search requirements will not be imposed for 3 month period for new and existing claims.

Minimum income floor – normally if you are self employed, universal credit rules treat you as earning a minimum income and working a minimum number of hours.  This is usually that you are earning the national minimum wage and working for 35 hours a week.  This is the case even if your hours are lower and income is lower.  As universal credit is means tested, the minimum income floor rules can cause self employed people to receive considerably less income.

Now the DWP will have the discretion to lessen the floor, or treat it as zero. 

Job Seekers Allowance

People will be treated as available for work and actively seeking employment.  This means they will not need to look for work

Statutory Sick Pay 

Normally there was a three day waiting period before someone could be treated as eligible for SSP.  The waiting period has now been lifted.

People staying at home for 7 days with symptoms of coronavirus and people living in the household with people with the symptoms of coronavirus staying at home for 14 days are treated as incapable of work.  This means they can receive SSP.  This will apply retrospectively from 13 March 2020.

Welfare Benefit Tribunals

All tribunals are to be stayed for 21 days.

All time limits on any current proceedings extended for the same period 21 days

All time limits for making appeals to be extended for the same period 21 days.

Any current hearings already listed will only go ahead if it has already been agreed that they can be dealt with remotely.  Judges are being encouraged to screen cases.

Self Employment Income Scheme

Taxable HMRC grant will provide support at 80 per cent of average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 a month

The scheme will be available from the beginning of June 2020.

If eligible you can claim Universal Credit whilst waiting for a grant.  As Universal Credit is means tested, the amount of the grant once received will affect the amount of benefit you receive. 

Free School Meals

Schools can provide free meals for collection or delivery.  Where this is not possible a £15.00 voucher can be issued by the school.

Welfare Benefit Debts

The DWP have held recovery of debts and loans

Housing

For information relating to how Coronavirus may affect your housing, please see the Shelter website. 
You can also contact us on the advice line listed at the top of this page if you have an issue with your housing.

Immigration

The government has released advice for visa applicants and temporary residents. You can find this on the gov.uk website here.
You can also contact us on the advice line listed at the top of this page if you have an immigration or asylum issue.

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