6 ways to get financial help during Covid lockdown from furlough to sick pay – your rights explained

6 ways to get financial help during Covid lockdown from furlough to sick pay – your rights explained

ENGLAND has entered its third national lockdown but there is still financial help available for those whose income has been hit by the pandemic.

The government has ordered non-essential shops and schools to close, while households have been told to stay home.

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The latest restrictions are likely to impact businesses, jobs and the finances of millions of people.

We have rounded up the support available to help boost your income and manage your bills during the latest lockdown.

Furlough

Businesses can apply for furlough to cover the wages of staff who cannot work due to the pandemic.

This may be due to the business having to temporarily close or to manage cashflow during quieter periods.

You can also request to be furloughed if you have caring responsibilities such as if you need to help with home schooling.

Furloughed workers will be paid 80% of their salary up to £2,500 per month.

The furlough scheme was due to end last October but has been extended until the end of April 2021.

It applies whether you work full, part-time or on a flexible contract but there are some exclusions such as for the self-employed.

The way it works is your employer pays a portion of your wages as usual and then claims it back from the government.

Unfortunately, employers aren't legally required to put you on the scheme.

Self-employed grants

Self-employed workers can get help from the government through the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS).

The grant is worth 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total.

To claim, your business must have had a new or continuing impact from coronavirus between November 1 2020 and January 29 2021, which you reasonably believe will have a significant reduction in your profits.

What help is out there for businesses and self-employed workers?

THE government has introduced the following measures to help self-employed workers and businesses during the coronavirus outbreak:

Rent support: Businesses who are struggling to pay their rents are protected from eviction until the end of March 2021.

Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme: SMEs can get loans and overdrafts of up to £5million for up to six years and the government will guarantee up to 80 per of these.

Bounce back loans: Businesses can apply for loans worth up to £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

Grants of up to £10,000: Small firms can get grants of up to £10,000 to help with ongoing business costs.

Tax bill help: SMEs that cannot afford their tax bills can ask HMRC for a “time to pay” arrangement so any debt collection is suspended.

Business rates holiday: A 12-month business rates holiday has been introduced for many businesses.

This is the third grant the government has issued to help self-employed workers through the coronavirus crisis.

It offered two grants last year – between August and October and November and January.

The grant does not need to be repaid but is subject to income tax and self-employed national insurance.

There are exclusions though. You can only apply if you have trading history from the previous two tax years.

Average trading profit must have been less than £50,000 a year and more than half of someone’s income has to have been earned from self-employment.

Limited company directors who mainly take income from dividends are also excluded.

If you’re eligible, you must make your claim for the third grant on or before 29 January 2021. Check the Gov.uk website to find out how you can make a claim.

The government has also announced there'll be a fourth grant covering February to April 2021, but it's yet to confirm the details including how much it'll be.

Sick pay

You can get statutory sick pay of £95.85 per week if you cannot work due to you or someone in your household has coronavirus.

You'll be entitled to sick pay if you're showing symptoms or have tested positive for the virus.

It also applies if you've been told to shield.

The sum is paid by your employer for every day you are off work for up to a maximum of 28 weeks.

Mortgage payment holidays

You can get a breather on your mortgage payment if your income has been hit by the pandemic.

This relief was due to end in October 2020 but you can now apply for a mortgage payment holiday until the end of March 2021.

Your payment holiday can be for a maximum of six months.

The payment break is only temporary and you still need to repay what you owe, plus interest will still build up so you could end up paying more on your mortgage.

You can apply directly to your mortgage lender.

Credit card and loan payment breaks

People with loans, credit cards and other forms of credit such as motor finance can apply for a payment break until March 31.

The break can last for three months at a time up to a maximum total of six months.

All credit payment breaks must end by July 31, according to Financial Conduct Authority rules.

After March 31, you can apply to extend an existing payment holiday up until July 31 as long as you don't go past the six-month limit and there are no breaks in the support.

The payment holiday won't show up on your credit file but lenders could still take it into account when making future lending decisions.

Contact your provider for support.

Universal Credit

You can get your income topped up during the pandemic if you are self-employed by claiming Universal Credit.

Previously, the government used a Minimum Income Floor that assumed self-employed workers earn at least 35 hours a week on the minimum wage.

If people earned below that then they wouldn't see the benefits topped up.

The Minimum Income Floor was suspended at the height of the pandemic last year and now isn't due to be reintroduced until the end of April 2021.

This means support will instead be calculated based on your actual earnings.

We've got a handy guide on who is eligible for Universal Credit here

We've rounded up which shops and businesses can stay open during the third lockdown.

Meanwhile, non-essential shops, hairdressers and salons have been forced to shut.

Pubs and restaurants will still be allowed to operate takeaway and delivery services – but takeaway pints are banned.

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