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Coronavirus advice and help

This fact sheet covers England & WalesYou will need different advice if you live in Scotland.

Many businesses have been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus and lots of people are having to manage on a reduced income. The Government, banks and other organisations may offer help if you have been affected by coronavirus.

This fact sheet explains what help is available if you are in business. It also has information about the help that is available if you are finding it difficult to pay your household bills or debts because of the outbreak.

If you need more information about the symptoms of coronavirus or advice about avoiding infection, go to the NHS website.

Help for sole traders and businesses

Government guidance

The Government has released guidance for employers and businesses on how you should deal with the impact of coronavirus. The guides cover several topics, such as how to help prevent the spread of the virus and what to do if someone in your work force has coronavirus.

The Chancellor also confirmed in a statement on 17 March 2020 that advice given by Government to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance if they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place. Although advice did change and the Government said that many of these businesses had to close, the Chancellor's earlier statement may affect the date from which your insurer pays you.

Help for the self-employed and businesses

The Government has announced the following help for self-employed people and businesses.

Statutory Sick Pay refunds

If you run a business with fewer than 250 people, costs for up to 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay will be refunded for eligible employees who have been off work because of coronavirus. 

The online claim tool is now available. For further guidance, including eligibility details, see GOV.UK.

HMRC Coronavirus Helpline

You can call the HMRC Coronavirus Helpline on 0800 024 1222 if you cannot pay your tax bill on time because of coronavirus. You can also continue to use HMRC’s Time to Pay service.

Deferral of some payments to HMRC

Businesses are being given longer to make some payments to HMRC. This includes:

  • VAT payments that were due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020;
  • Self-Assessment payments on account that were due on 31 July 2020; and
  • Self-Assessment that will be owed in January 2021. If you have up to £30,000 of self-assessment tax owing in January 2021, you may be able to use HMRC’s self-service Time to Pay facility to get a payment plan for 12 months. See GOV.UK for more information, including eligibility details.

Late filing daily penalties will not apply for 2018 to 2019 self assessment returns

HMRC has said that daily penalties will not be charged for the late filing of 2018 to 2019 self assessment tax returns. This is because of the difficult circumstances many taxpayers faced due to coronavirus during the time that daily penalties accrued. Other penalties will still apply and HMRC will expect you to submit any outstanding returns as soon as possible.

Extra time to appeal against some HMRC decisions

If you have been affected by coronavirus, HMRC will give you an extra three months to appeal a tax or penalty decision that is dated 1 February 2020 or later. Send your appeal as soon as you can and also explain that the delay was caused by coronavirus.

VAT rate change for some businesses

From 15 July 2020 to 31 March 2021, the rate of VAT will be cut from 20% to 5% on most tourism and hospitality-related activities and on admission charges for some attractions. For more information, see GOV.UK.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Grant Extension

The SEISS grant extension covers 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021. It provides further grants if you are self-employed and:

  • were previously eligible for the SEISS first and second grant (although you don't have to have made a claim);
  • intend to continue trading; and
  • are facing reduced demand due to coronavirus or are temporarily unable to trade because of coronavirus.

The extension provides two further taxable grants that will be paid as separate lump sums, each covering a separate three-month period.

  • The third grant will cover 1 November 2020 to 31 January 2021. It provides a grant for 80% of your average monthly trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500.
  • The fourth grant will cover 1 February 2021 to 30 April 2021. HMRC has said that it will provide details of the payment at a later date.

For more information, see GOV.UK.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) - Extended

The CJRS was due to close at the end of October 2020, but will now run until the end of April 2021.

If you are finding it difficult to maintain your workforce because your business is affected by coronavirus, you may be able to furlough your employees and apply for a grant to cover some of their wage costs through the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme is available to all UK businesses with a UK bank account and UK PAYE scheme.

  • Until the scheme is reviewed in January 2021, HMRC will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the hours that an eligible employee is furloughed.
  • You will need to pay the employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contribution.

Claims can be made on GOV.UK from 11 November 2020. Monthly deadlines will apply.

  • For claims up to 31 October 2020, the deadline was 30 November 2020.
  • For claims after 1 November 2020, the claim must be made within 14 calendar days after the month the claim relates to. For example, an employer claiming a grant for November 2020 must submit the claim by 14 December 2020. If the 14th day falls on a weekend, the deadline will be the following weekday.
  • See GOV.UK guidance for a list of monthly submission dates and for information about late applications.

For claims made for the month of December 2020 onwards, HMRC will publish:

  • employer names;
  • an indication of the value of the claim; and
  • the company registration number if the claim is made by a limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP).

HMRC will soon provide information on how to request that they do not publish these details if it would result in a serious risk of violence or intimidation to certain individuals. This includes you, your employees and anybody that lives with you or your employees. For more information, see GOV.UK or contact us for advice.

If you are a director of a limited company and paid as an employee of the limited company through PAYE, the limited company can apply for help from the CJRS if you are furloughed. Our understanding is that a director who is also an employee can furlough themselves as long as they only carry out minor statutory and administrative director duties. You must not provide services or carry out income generating ‘employee’ activities while you are furloughed.

This scheme will not cover any dividends that you receive as a director. So, if you are a director of a limited company, paid as an employee of the limited company through PAYE and also get dividends from the limited company, you will need to decide whether being furloughed is the best option for you. If you are unsure, speak to your accountant or bookkeeper.

If you are a salaried member of a limited liability partnership (LLP), then you may also be eligible for support through the scheme. If you are a member of an LLP and uncertain about whether you are ‘salaried’, or not, check the LLP agreement. You may also need to contact your accountant or bookkeeper.

Retention incentive

The Government previously announced that a Job Retention Bonus would be paid for each eligible furloughed employee who is still employed on 31 January 2021. This will no longer be available.

However, Government has said that a retention incentive will be deployed at the appropriate time.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme is open for new applications until 31 March 2021. It allows banks to offer loans to support small and medium sized businesses. The Government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

The Government also announced the following changes to the scheme on 3 April 2020.

  • All viable small businesses affected by coronavirus issues, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, are now eligible for the scheme.
  • Lenders cannot ask for a personal guarantee for loans under £250,000.
  • For more information about the scheme and a list of lenders, visit the British Business Bank website. The Bounce Back Loan scheme This scheme is open for new applications until 31 March 2021. It allows banks to offer loans to support small and medium sized businesses. that have been affected by coronavirus to take out loans of between £2,000 and £50,000.

From 10 November 2020, businesses may be able to apply for a top to an existing Bounce Back Loan if the original loan was for less than the maximum they were entitled to. The maximum loan is the lesser of £50,000 or 25% of turnover.

Bounce Back Loans can offer repayment terms of up to 10 years and no repayments are due for the first 12 months of the loan. For more information about this scheme, including eligibility details, see GOV.UK.

Recovery Advice for Business scheme

The professional and business services sector and Enterprise Nation are offering small and medium sized businesses free advice in the following areas:

  • accounting and finance;
  • people and building a team;
  • planning, strategy and pivoting;
  • marketing, PR and social media; and
  • technology and digital tools.

The scheme is open until 31 December 2020. To access the service, go to the Enterprise Nation platform.

Leadership and problem-solving training (England only)

The Government has launched two training programmes which aim to help small businesses recover from the impact of coronavirus.

The Small Business Leadership Programme is a fully-funded 10 week programme. It will be delivered online and will help you develop your leadership skills. To join the programme:

  • your business must be based in England;
  • your business needs to employ between 5 and 249 people;
  • the business must have been operating for at least one year;
  • you should be a decision maker or member of the senior management team within the business with at least one person reporting directly to you; and
  • you must be able to commit to attending the full programme.

The Peer Networks Programme focuses on helping business owners improve their problem-solving skills. It seeks to help you develop the skills to deal with challenges brought about by the coronavirus crisis. The programme is available to small and medium sized businesses that have:

  • operated for at least one year;
  • at least five employees;
  • a turnover of at least £100,000; and
  • an aspiration to improve.

Business support finder

GOV.UK has an online business support finder. It asks you several multiple choice questions. It uses your answers to produce a list of the types of coronavirus support that may be available to you and your business.

Sector support

GOV.UK also has information about coronavirus advice and support that is available from business representative organisations and trade associations. Check whether there is any extra help available for your type of business.

Business rent

The Government has introduced temporary measures to protect business tenants.

  • From 26 March 2020 until 31 March 2021, business landlords can no longer end your lease and take the premises back (forfeit the lease) because of rent arrears.

  • From 25 April 2020, the minimum amount of unpaid rent that you must owe before a business landlord can use bailiffs under the commercial rent arrears recovery process has also been increased.

For more information, see our Commercial property leases fact sheet.

Your business rent will still be due. If you cannot afford to pay your business rent, contact your landlord to discuss your situation.

Business rates

  • Business rates in England will be scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses. To find out if you qualify, contact your local authority.

  • Business rates in Wales will be scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or below. To find out if you qualify, contact your local authority.

Grants

For businesses in England and Wales

The Kickstart scheme

This scheme helps businesses to create new jobs for under 25 year olds who are getting Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment.

It will pay a young person's wages (based on the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week) for six months, plus an amount to cover associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. £1,500 per placement is also available to cover setup costs, support and training. Applications need to be for a minimum of 30 job placements, but employers can partner with other organisations to apply. For more information, see GOV.UK.

For businesses in England

Incentive payments for hiring an apprentice

The Government has said that it will give extra incentive payments for businesses that hire new apprentices between 1 August 2020 and 31 March 2021. It will give businesses:

  • £2,000 for apprentices who are under the age of 25; and
  • £1,500 for apprentices who are aged 25 and over.

For more information, see the Education Skills Funding Agency website.

Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG)

LRSGs are being made available to support businesses that have been affected by local or national restrictions. The grants are being dealt with by local authorities and the amount you will get depends on the rateable value of your business premises.

LRSG (Closed) Addendum provides a grant of up to £3,000 for businesses that had to close because of national restrictions from 5 November to 2 December.

LRSG (Closed) provides a grant of up to £1,500 for every two-week period, from 9 September 2020, that a business has had to close because of local Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions.

LRSG (Closed) Addendum: Tier 4 provides a grant of up to £1,500 for every two-week period, from 19 December 2020, that a business has had to close because of local Tier 4 restrictions.

LRSG (Open) can provide grants to businesses that were able to stay open but have been severely impacted because they were in an area under Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions. Grants can be backdated to 1 August 2020. Local authorities have discretion on what the level of grants will be.

LRSG (Sector) provides grants for eligible businesses that have been required to stay closed since the first lockdown in March 2020. Grants of up to £1,500 are available for every two weeks that a business has to remain closed from 1 November 2020. Eligible businesses include:

  • nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques; and
  • adult entertainment venues and hostess bars.

For more information on an LRSG, including how to apply, contact your local authority or visit their website.

Top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

The Government has announced a one-off top up grant of up to £9,000 per property for closed retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. The payment is to help businesses until Spring 2021.

Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs

Pubs that mainly serve alcohol, rather than provide food, may be eligible for a one-off payment of £1,000 for December 2020. The payment is for businesses in Tier 2 and Tier 3 that were forced to reduce their operations because of the regional measures introduced at the start of December 2020.

Applications must be made through your local authority before 31 January 2021.

For more information, see GOV.UK.

Additional Restrictions Grant

Local authorities in England have been given funding to provide further support to local businesses that have been affected by coronavirus restrictions. The Government has encouraged local authorities to support businesses that:

  • have not had to close but are still impacted by restrictions; and
  • are not on the business rates list but have still been affected by restrictions.

Payments can be backdated to 14 October 2020.

Local authorities will set their own eligibility criteria and level of grants. For more information, contact your local authority and see GOV.UK.

Other grants for certain business types are also available through other organisations. GOV.UK contains information about government support for businesses in England. Go to www.gov.uk and search for 'Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business support' or call 0800 998 1098.

For businesses in Wales

Economic Resilience Fund (ERF)

On the 30 November 2020, the Welsh Government announced extra funding for the hospitality, tourism and related supply chain sectors. This includes funding through the:

  • ERF Restrictions Business Fund;
  • ERF Sector Specific Support; and
  • continuation of the ERF Restrictions Discretionary Grant.

Following further restrictions announced in December 2020, the ERF Restrictions Business Fund also covers non-essential retail businesses.

ERF Restrictions Business Fund

The aim of the fund is to support businesses with cash flow to help them survive the economic impact of the recent restrictions.

The fund is for businesses in the hospitality, non-essential retail, tourism, leisure and supply chain sectors that were on the local authority non-domestic rating list on 1 September 2020.

  • Businesses in receipt of Small Business rate relief (SBRR) with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will be eligible for a £3,000 payment.
  • Businesses with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000 will be eligible for a £5,000 payment if they are forced to close.
  • Businesses with a rateable value between £51,001 and £150,000 will be eligible for a £5,000 payment if impacted by the restrictions.

Businesses may also be eligible for the relevant support if they have a greater than 40% reduction in turnover during the restriction period. For more information, see Business Wales.

ERF Sector Specific Support

The fund opened for applications on 13 January 2021. It will remain open for two weeks or until the funds are fully committed.

The ERF Sector Specific Support (operating cost) package is targeted at Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure (HTL) businesses or supply chain companies, that are materially affected (by a greater than 60% impact on turnover) as a result of the restrictions.

Eligible businesses will have to be VAT registered, limited companies with turnover above £50,000 and employ staff via PAYE. Use the Business Wales eligibility checker to check whether you are eligible for the grant.

The level of grant paid will depend on several factors, such as how many members of staff a business has. For more information, see Business Wales.

ERF Restrictions Discretionary Grant

Local authorities will continue to deliver the Lockdown Discretionary Grant to businesses that are materially affected by the restrictions (who have a greater than 40% reduced turnover). The grant is targeted at businesses that are not on the non-domestic rates (NDR) system and not eligible for the NDR linked grants.

The grant is set at eligible costs of up to £2,000 per business.

Applications for the grant can be made on local authority websites, or via Business Wales and will be dealt with on a first come first served basis.

For more information, see Business Wales.

Apprentice Recruitment Support

The Welsh Government has launched a fund providing incentives to recruit apprentices. The incentives run from 1 August 2020 to 28 February 2021. The incentives available are:

  • up to £3,000 for employing a new apprentice;
  • up to £2,600 for re-employing an apprentice made redundant between 23 March 2020 and 28 February 2021; and
  • £1,500 for employing a disabled apprentice (in addition to any new and redundant incentive payments).

The amount of the payment will depend on the age of the apprentice and their contracted hours of employment. For more detailed information, see GOV.Wales.

Companies House accounts

The Government has introduced temporary measures to extend the time that most companies have to file their accounts. The extension is given automatically to:

  • public companies with a filing deadline that falls between 25 March 2020 and 6 April 2021; and
  • private companies with a filing deadline that falls between 26 June 2020 and 6 April 2021.

For further information, see the guidance Temporary changes to Companies House filing requirements. You can check what the deadline is for filing your company’s accounts on the Companies House website.

Directors’ duties

The Government has introduced measures that temporarily suspend liability for wrongful trading. For many limited companies, this means that a director is not responsible for any worsening of the financial position of the company or its creditors that occurs between the following periods.

  • 1 March 2020 to 30 September 2020.
  • 26 November 2020 to 30 April 2021.

Temporary protections for limited companies from statutory demands and winding-up notices

The Government has introduced some temporary measures. In certain circumstances, your company may have extra protection from creditors using a statutory demand or other grounds to apply for the business to be wound up. Also, in some circumstances the court may be able to restore a company if a winding-up order has already been made. More information is available in our Limited companies fact sheet.

Limited company meetings

Some companies have a legal requirement to hold meetings. As holding any meeting during the pandemic is likely to be difficult because of social distancing, temporary measures have been introduced for meetings that were due to be held between 26 March 2020 and 30 March 2021. During this period:

  • meetings do not have to be held in a specific place;
  • those attending do not have to be together in the same place;
  • meetings can be held, and votes can be cast, electronically or by other means;
  • shareholders do not have the right to attend the meeting; and
  • shareholders only have the right to participate by voting or by using a particular method of voting (for example, a show of hands).

Coronavirus and redundancy

Redundancy is when you lose a job because your employer needs to reduce their workforce. The information on this page covers your rights if you have been made redundant from a job where you were an employee on a PAYE contract. The information on this page does not apply to any contracts or jobs you lose during self-employment.

If you are a director of a limited company that has entered liquidation, you may be able to claim statutory redundancy payments if you were also an employee of the company. See the section Insolvent employers.

Help if you’re being made redundant

Your employer may be able to use one of the government’s support schemes to help you stay in employment.

If you have been made redundant, you should check which benefits you are entitled to claim.

See our Coronavirus and your income section for more information.

Is your redundancy fair?

You can only be made redundant if your job is no longer needed. You have the same rights during the coronavirus pandemic as usual.

You should have a consultation with your employer if you’re being made redundant. Your employer should explain what is happening and you should get the chance to ask any questions. If 20 employees or more are being made redundant, your employer can carry out this consultation through a representative, such as a union representative. More information about the consultation can be found on the Money Advice Service website.

Your employer should be fair when deciding who they make redundant. They could, for example, ask for volunteers or check disciplinary records. There are some things that shouldn’t play any part in you being made redundant, such as your age and gender. For a fuller list, see the GOV.UK website.

If you don’t think that your employer has been fair, contact ACAS for impartial advice on your workplace rights.

You might be offered ‘suitable alternative employment’ within your organisation or an associated company. You have the right to a four-week trial period in the alternative job. You do not have to take the job if you think it’s unsuitable, however you may lose your right to redundancy pay if you unreasonably turn down an offer of alternative employment. See the ACAS website for more information on alternative job offers from your employer. Your redundancy could be an unfair dismissal if your employer has suitable alternative employment and they do not offer it to you.

Redundancy pay

If you’ve been with your current employer for 2 years or more you would normally get statutory redundancy pay. You should receive:

  • half a week's pay for each year of employment up to age of 22;
  • one week's' pay for each year between the ages of 22 and 40; and
  • one and a half week's pay for each year over the age of 41.

This is up to a maximum 20 years of work.

If your recent wage has been lower because you had been ‘furloughed’ your redundancy pay should be based on your pre-furlough salary.

The maximum statutory redundancy pay you can get is £16,140. If you were made redundant before 6 April 2020, these amounts will be lower.

You can calculate your statutory redundancy pay using the GOV.UK tool.

If you don’t think you’re employer has paid the correct amount of redundancy pay, contact ACAS for more help.

Redundancy notice

If you are made redundant your job should not end straight away, you should get a paid notice period. Although your employer can give more, the statutory redundancy notice periods are:

  • at least one week’s notice if employed between one month and 2 years;
  • one week’s notice for each year if employed between 2 and 12 years; or
  • 12 weeks’ notice if employed for 12 years or more.

Unless you are off work, you should receive your normal pay whilst working your notice period. ACAS has more detailed information about notice periods and the pay you should receive.

Your employer can make a ‘payment in lieu of notice. This is where you’ll get all your notice paid at once and your job ends straight away. Or your employer can put you on garden leave. This means you’ll be paid as usual but you don’t have to come to work.

Check your contract and speak to your employer if you’re unsure what notice period you should receive.

Finding a new job

You can contact the Rapid Response Service if you suspect you’re going to be made redundant or up to 13 weeks after you’ve been made redundant. They can, amongst other things, help with writing CV’s, find the right training and travel costs.

You can contact Rapid Response Service by email at rrs.enquiries@dwp.gov.uk.

Insolvent employers

Your employer may be insolvent. This means they aren’t able to pay their debts. If your employer is insolvent and makes you redundant, they might be unable to pay you the money you are entitled to.

You may be able to apply for redundancy pay and other related payments from the Government, through the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS).

Find out more about your rights if your employer is insolvent on the GOV.UK website.

Limited company directors

If you are a director of a company that has gone into liquidation, you may be entitled to statutory redundancy payments through the RPS if:

  • you worked at least 16 hours a week;
  • you were an employee for at least 2 years; and
  • a contract of employment was in place. If there was no written contract, you will need to show the liquidator that there was a verbal or implied contract. For example, this could be by showing that you were paid through PAYE and that your worked similar hours to other employees.

You should make your claim to the RPS within six months of the date of liquidation.

If your income is affected

If you are unwell or self-isolating, you are not eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay unless you are employed. Instead, you may be able to claim Universal Credit and/or New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

If you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, you may also be entitled to help from the Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme.

Universal Credit

Making a claim for Universal Credit may mean that you lose other benefits you currently get, such as tax credits. 

Once you make a Universal Credit claim, your tax credit claim will stop and you cannot go back to tax credits. Before you apply for Universal Credit, try to get advice from a benefits adviser to check if you will be better off claiming Universal Credit. You can look for a local benefits adviser on the Turn2us website.

  • Universal Credit is based on your household situation, so your or your partner’s income and savings may affect how much you get.
  • If you are making a new claim for Universal Credit, you do not need to call anyone. Claims can be made online. If any information needs checking, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will call you back.
  • There is a five week wait to receive your first Universal Credit payment. You can get a month’s advance payment, which you then pay back.
  • The Government has temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information.

New Style Employment and Support Allowance

  • Eligibility for New Style Employment and Support Allowance will depend on whether you have paid enough National Insurance contributions during the last two to three years.
  • Income and savings that you or your partner have will not affect your claim. 
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance can now be claimed from day one of illness, rather than the usual day eight.
  • You can now claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance online.  

If you are employed, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay more quickly than usual.

Turn2us has more information about benefits and how to claim them. They also have a benefits calculator to help you find out what you may be able to claim.

Test and Trace Support Payment scheme

If you are on a low income and are asked to self-isolate you may receive a payment of £500. Payment can be backdated from:

  • 28 September 2020 if you live in England; and
  • 23 October 2020 if you live in Wales.

You will be eligible for the payment if you live in England or Wales and meet the following criteria:

  • you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and have a unique ID number;
  • you are employed and your employer can confirm you are unable to work from home, or you are self-employed and you can show that you are unable to run your business without social contact;
  • you are claiming at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit.

In Wales, from 14 December 2020, you can also claim the payment if you need to take time off work to look after a child who has been formally told to self-isolate. More information can be found on the GOV.Wales website.

To make a claim, contact your [local authority(https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council). The payment won’t affect any other benefits and you can make further claims if you meet the criteria.

If you don’t receive one of the qualifying benefits, your local authority may still be able to make a payment to you if you are on a low income and could suffer financial hardship from not being able to work.

Already claiming benefits?

If you are claiming Universal Credit or Jobseeker's Allowance, you may need to meet certain requirements to continue to receive the benefit. This could be job searching, periods of time at work or attending regular meetings or assessments. Due to coronavirus, these requirements were temporarily suspended, but they have now restarted. Call the Jobcentre Plus if you're worried about going to an appointment in person due to coronavirus.

If coronavirus means you are unable to carry out a task, you should phone the office paying the benefit to explain why. If you are claiming Universal Credit, inform your work coach and explain what has happened in your online journal.

The Government has confirmed that if you are claiming sickness and disability benefits you will no longer need to attend face-to-face assessments until further notice. This will apply if you receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit and possibly Universal Credit.

You will keep getting ESA until you have a medical assessment. The DWP may try to assess you by looking at medical records and speaking to you on the phone.

You can find more details on GOV.UK.

The Government has also temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. You can contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information.

If you are already getting Universal Credit

Make sure you explain in your online journal why you haven’t been able to attend as expected.

If coronavirus means that you are unable to carry out a task, you should phone the office paying the benefit to explain why. If you are claiming Universal credit, inform your work coach and explain what has happened in your online journal.

More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Benefit increases

From 6 April 2020, the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit will be increased by £20 per week. This will apply to new and existing claimants. The exact amount you will receive will depend on your situation.

If you rent privately, the maximum amount of help that you can get towards your rent through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit depends on several factors, such as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate for the area you live in and the type of accommodation that you need. LHA rates have been increased across the UK. To find the rate that applies to your area, go to the Directgov website.

To find out more about how these changes may help you, visit Turn2us. They have a benefit calculator to help you find out if and how much you may be able to claim.

Post Office Card Accounts - cash delivery of some benefit payments

You may be able to have your Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefit payments delivered in cash to your home by Royal Mail Special Delivery if:

  • you have a Post Office Card Account;
  • live in England; and
  • cannot leave your home because of shielding reasons. The National Shielding Service and DWP will decide whether this is suitable. If you haven’t already been contacted but feel that this service would help you, contact the DWP and ask whether you can be included in this scheme.

Benefit overpayments

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily stopped taking action to recover:

  • DWP benefit overpayments;
  • tax credit debts being managed by the DWP; and
  • social fund loans.

These overpayments started to be collected again from July 2020.

If you previously repaid by direct debit, you will receive a letter from the DWP before repayments start again. If you stopped the repayment with your bank, you may need to set up the repayments again from July 2020. Speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647 if you are unsure.

If you previously repaid through your wages, the DWP will write to you to see if an alternative repayment plan can be set up. If you previously repaid through your benefits, you will be notified of repayments starting again by a letter or Universal Credit journal entries.

The DWP will also restart other methods of recovery such as using debt collectors.

If you are experiencing financial hardship and think you will struggle to afford the repayments you were previously making, speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.

Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme

The DWP also paused deductions from benefits for loans taken out using the Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme. These loans are usually through credit unions or other not-for-profit organisations.

Repayments to the Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme started again in July 2020. You should be notified by letter and don’t need to do anything.

Help if you rent your home

The Government introduced temporary laws to protect tenants.

It initially said that from 26 March 2020 to 30 September 2020, in most cases landlords must give at least three months' notice before they can start court action to evict you. This has now been updated.

  • In Wales, most tenants have been given further protection by the Welsh Government. From 29 September 2020 until 31 March 2021, in most cases a landlord must give you six months' notice.
  • In England, new regulations update the notice period that landlords need to give to end most tenancies. From 29 August 2020 to 31 March 2021, in most cases where there is less than six months of rent arrears, a landlord must give you six months' notice.

From 27 March 2020 until 20 September 2020 the court service suspended (stayed) most possession action because of coronavirus. This temporary stay has now ended. This does not mean that your landlord will begin court action.

If you cannot afford to pay your rent or already have arrears, contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss your situation.

If your landlord starts new possession action or asks the court to re-start a claim that was previously suspended because of coronavirus, there are extra rules that they need to follow. For more information, see our Rent arrears fact sheet.

In England, the Government has introduced temporary laws that mean in most cases evictions will not be carried out by bailiffs until 21 February 2021 at the earliest. However, there are some exceptions, such as where the court has made an order because:

  • there was anti-social behaviour; or
  • there were rent arrears which added up to at least six months’ worth of rent.

In Wales, the Government has also introduced temporary laws that means in most cases evictions will not be carried out by bailiffs until 31 March 2021. There are some exceptions, such as where the court has made an order because of trespass, domestic violence, anti-social behaviour and nuisance.

If you are contacted by a bailiff who is threatening eviction, contact Shelter for help.

If you have received possession claim forms, are being threatened with court action or need extra support, contact:

  • Shelter on 0808 800 4444  if you live in England; or
  • Shelter Cymru on 0800 049 5495 if you live in Wales.

Information is also available on their websites.

Tenant Saver Loan Scheme

In Wales, the Tenant Saver Loan Scheme is now open. This scheme offers loans to certain private sector tenants in Wales to cover rent arrears that have built up since 1 March 2020. To check whether you are eligible, see Credit Unions Wales.

Discretionary Housing Payment

If you claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit with help towards housing costs, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment. A Discretionary Housing Payment can give you extra money to pay towards your rent. To apply, contact your local council. Check whether you can claim online.

Help with your mortgage

The FCA has issued several pieces of guidance for requesting a payment holiday if you are affected by coronavirus and struggling to pay your mortgage. The most recent guidance applies from 20 November 2020.

  • If you have been affected by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday, you will be entitled to a six-month payment holiday.
  • If you’ve had a payment holiday previously or are currently on a payment holiday, you will be able to extend up to a total of six months.

You have until 31 March 2021 to ask your mortgage lender for a payment holiday. After this date, you may also be able to extend your existing payment holiday up to 31 July 2021. However, you cannot go over the six-month limit that the FCA guidance allows.

The payment holiday will not be recorded on your credit file. However, some lenders may review your bank account if you apply for more credit. As a result, in some cases this could affect their lending decision.

If you previously had a payment holiday which has ended and you can afford to make your mortgage payments again, do so. You will also need to contact your lender to discuss how you are going to catch up with the missed payments.

If you’ve already had six months of payment holidays, and you are still unable to afford the payments, contact your lender as soon as possible. Discuss your situation and ask what forbearance options are available. Ask your lender how this will affect your credit file. The FCA has also said that while lenders can continue with repossession action, a firm should not enforce repossession of a property before 31 January 2021.

This does not mean that your lender will take court action. However, if your lender starts new possession action in England and Wales or asks the court to re-start a claim that was previously suspended because of coronavirus, there are extra rules that they need to follow. For more information, see our Mortgage arrears fact sheet.

If you have received possession claim forms, are being threatened with court action or need extra support, contact:

  • Shelter on 0808 800 4444 if you live in England; or 
  • Shelter Cymru on 0800 049 5495 if you live in Wales.

Information is also available on their websites.

Help to Buy customers

England

You can apply until 31 March 2021 for a payment holiday if you were affected by coronavirus and struggling to pay your Help to buy equity loan. The Help to Buy website has an online Payment Holiday Application.

  • If you’ve already had a payment holiday, you may be able to ask for a further three months.
  • However, you will not be eligible to apply for another payment holiday if you have already had two payment holidays that total six months.

Interest will continue to be added to your equity loan during a payment holiday.

When an agreed payment holiday ends, loan payments will automatically return to the normal monthly amount. You will need to contact Help to Buy on 0345 848 0236 to discuss how you are going to catch up with the missed payments.

Wales If you are worried about making repayments you should contact Help to Buy (Wales) Ltd on 0800 0937 937 to discuss your situation.

Coronavirus and your home

Help with your council tax

Councils in England have received guidance from the Government on how they should use new funding to help households in their area. 

If you currently get help from the Council Tax Reduction scheme (also called Council Tax Support) and are of working-age, you may see your council tax bill for 2020-2021 reduce by a further £150.

  • You do not need to have been directly affected by coronavirus to be eligible.
  • You do not need to apply to the council for this extra reduction. Councils already have details of households that get help through the Council Tax Reduction scheme and should contact you directly.

Your 2020-2021 council tax bill

Some councils changed the months during which they collect council tax payments for the 2020-2021 tax year. Instead of collecting payments from April 2020 to January 2021, some councils are collecting payments from June 2020 to March 2021. This means that if you usually pay your council tax in 10 instalments, the months that you would not pay council tax would be April and May 2020, rather than February and March 2021. Check with your council to see if they made this change.

If you will struggle to pay your council tax, contact your council and explain this to them. 

Councils may give further help if you are dealing with exceptional circumstances.

Help from your home energy provider

Energy providers have agreed that the disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended. Also, if you are self-isolating and unable to top up your pre-payment meter, you can:

  • nominate a third party for credit top ups;
  • have a discretionary fund added to your credit; or
  • have a pre-loaded top up card sent so that your supply is not interrupted.

If you are struggling to manage repayments to your energy provider contact them to see what help they can provide.  New guidance means that your debt repayments and bill payments could be reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary.

More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.

If you are a vulnerable person, you could ask your energy provider to place you on the Priority Services Register. The Priority Services Register can help to make sure that you receive all the appropriate support you need. You can find out who may be classed as vulnerable and what help is available by visiting Ofgem.

Help from your household water supplier

Water companies have agreed to help customers in a variety of ways because of the coronavirus crisis. Water UK has said that companies are:

  • stopping new court applications on unpaid bills during the current restrictions, and stopping any enforcement visits;
  • actively offering payment breaks or payment holidays for anyone in financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus; and
  • changing payment plans urgently to help with sudden changes in household finances.

Each water company will have its own scheme. Contact them directly to see what help can be provided. A full list of possible support and more detail can be found on Water UK's website.

Help from your mobile or broadband provider

Most of the main broadband and mobile companies have introduced a range of measures to try to help customers.

  • Providers will help if you are struggling to pay your bill and make sure you are treated fairly. Contact them if you are struggling to pay your bill.
  • They have agreed to remove all data caps on fixed broadband services. Check with your provider if you are unsure if this applies to you.
  • You may be offered a new package to help you stay connected. Some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from home phones or mobiles. Contact your provider to see if you could benefit from this.​

Help with your TV licence

TV Licensing have taken steps to help if you are struggling to pay your TV licence.

  • If you are unable to keep up with payments, call them on 0300 555 0300 to see how they can help.
  • TV Licensing has stopped sending arrears letters to people who have fallen behind on payments.
  • Collection visits by officers have also been stopped.
  • If you are in financial hardship and urgently need to stop your Direct Debit payments, call them on 0300 790 6068. If you are unable to get through, cancel the Direct Debit with your bank. You will need to make up any payments that you miss later on.​

TV Licensing has fewer staff answering calls at the moment so it will be more difficult to speak to someone. If you need to make a payment, there are other ways you can try and pay.

Coronavirus and your debts

FCA temporary measures

The FCA has announced measures, such as a payment freeze, to help customers in temporary financial difficulty because of coronavirus. You can apply for support outlined below from 25 November 2020.

Payment holidays will not be recorded on your credit file. However, there may be other ways for potential lenders to find out you had a payment holiday, for example by looking at bank statements.

The sections Payday loans, Motor finance and Buy-now-pay-later, rent-to-own and pawnbroker debts give detail of the help available. If you have already had the payment freezes detailed in these sections, or if you expect your financial difficulties to be long term, you should contact your lender now to discuss your situation and what support is available.

Lenders are expected to do the following under current FCA guidance for tailored support:

  • provide tailored support which reflects your individual circumstances. This includes providing support before you miss a payment if you are approaching the end of a payment holiday;
  • offer a range of shorter and longer-term options;
  • not pressurise you into repaying your debt in an unreasonably short period of time;
  • put in place an affordable repayment arrangement which takes into account your wider financial situation, including other debts and essential living expenses; and
  • suspend, reduce, waive or cancel any interest, fees or charges to prevent your balance escalating after a repayment arrangement has been agreed.

If you require support after a payment holiday has ended, this will be reflected on your credit reference file. Lenders should be clear on how any repayment arrangements will be recorded on your credit reference file.

Step Change Covid Payment Plan (CVPP)

If you have already had payment holidays but still can’t afford your full payments, a CVPP may be an option. Contact us for advice.

Payday loans

If you have a payday loan, the availability of a payment freeze has been extended. However, you must apply before 31 March 2021.

  • If you have not yet benefited from one, your lender should allow you a one-month payment freeze.
  • No interest will be added during this payment freeze.
  • The payment freeze will not affect your credit file.

If you have already had a payment freeze and are unable to make up the deferred payment please see our Payday loans fact sheet and contact us for advice.

Buy-now-pay-later, rent-to-own and pawnbroker debts

If you have any of these types of lending, the availability of a payment holiday has been extended until 31 July 2021. However, you must apply before 31 March 2021.

  • If eligible you can ask for payment holidays of up to six months in total. Payment holidays can be requested up to three months at a time.
  • If you have already benefitted from a payment holiday, you can request a further holiday up to a maximum of six months.
  • The payment holiday will not affect your credit file.
  • Interest will continue to be added during the payment holiday.

After the payment holiday ends, you should be allowed to repay the deferred payment in an affordable way.

Pawnbroker agreements

If you have been granted a payment holiday, the firm should extend the redemption period for that item. If the redemption period has already ended, the firm should agree not to sell the item and suspend any sale for the payment deferral period.

Buy now pay later

If you have been granted a payment holiday and your agreement is within its interest-free promotional period, this should be extended to cover the period of the payment holiday.

Rent to own

If you have been granted a payment holiday, firms should continue to allow you to rely on insurance and warranties during the payment holiday or extended agreement.

Motor finance

If you have motor finance, the availability of a payment holiday has been extended until 31 July 2021. However, you must apply before 31 March 2021.

  • If you were up to date until coronavirus caused you temporary difficulty in paying, you should be given a three-month payment break if this is the best option for you. You may still be asked to make a token payment of £1.
  • If you have already been given a three-month payment break, you can ask for another payment break of up to three months. You can still ask for your second payment deferral after 31 March 2021, but your payments cannot be deferred beyond 31 July 2021.
  • This should not affect your credit files unless you need more help, for example, if interest on the payments needs to be frozen. Potential lenders may still be able to find out that you didn’t make these payments as originally agreed in other ways though, for example, by looking at your bank statements.
  • Your lender should not normally repossess goods if they know that you need to use them and are only experiencing temporary financial difficulty because of coronavirus. This guidance about repossessing goods is currently in place until 31 January 2021.

Bank debts and other lending

The FCA has issued several pieces of guidance for requesting a payment holiday if you are affected by coronavirus and struggling to pay your credit debts. The most recent guidance applies from 25 November 2020.

Personal loans, credit cards, store cards, catalogues

  • If you have been affected by coronavirus and have not yet had a payment holiday, you are entitled to a six-month payment holiday.
  • If you’ve had a payment holiday previously or are currently on a payment holiday, you will be able to extend up to a total of six months.

You have until 31 March 2021 to ask your lender for a payment holiday. After this date, you may also be able to extend your existing payment holiday up to 31 July 2021. However, you cannot go over the six-month limit that the FCA guidance allows.

The payment holiday will not be recorded on your credit file; however interest will continue to be added.

If your payment holiday has ended and you can afford to make your regular payments again, do so. You may also need to discuss how you are going to repay any missed payments with your lender.

If you have already had a total of six months payment holidays and you are still unable to afford the payments, contact your lender as soon as possible. Discuss your situation and ask what options are available. Ask your lender how this will affect your credit file.

FCA guidance says that your lender:

  • should take your circumstances into account when discussing a repayment arrangement;
  • should not pressurise you into repaying your debt in an unreasonably short time; and
  • should recognise vulnerability and respond to the needs of vulnerable customers.

For more information, see the FCA’s Coronavirus and Consumer Credit: Tailored Support Guidance.

Overdrafts

Under FCA guidance, banks are expected to contact overdraft customers who have received temporary support to determine if they still require assistance. If you need further support or if you ask your bank for help for the first time, the bank should:

  • provide tailored support such as reducing or waiving interest;
  • agree a programme of staged reductions in the overdraft limit; or
  • support you to reduce your overdraft usage by transferring the debt.

Your bank should not reduce your credit limit or suspend or remove an overdraft facility if that reduction, suspension or removal will cause you financial hardship.

Other bank debts

If you are struggling to pay unsecured bank debts that are not covered by the new FCA measures, you can still contact your bank to explain your situation. Each bank will consider what help it may give on a case by case basis. Go to their website to see what help is available. You can also call your bank, but be aware that you may have to wait some time.

Ask your lender how any arrangement that you agree will affect your credit file.

Some banks are also allowing people to access their fixed-savings accounts without a penalty. Contact your bank, explain your situation and see how they can help.

Avoid taking out more credit unless you know that you can afford to pay it back.

If you have debts which are now unaffordable, contact us for advice. While you are waiting to get the advice that you need, you can send your creditors a letter asking them to hold action on your account due to coronavirus.

Magistrates' court hearings

Magistrates' courts are limiting the number of cases that are being heard. If you have been told to attend a magistrates' court hearing, it is important that you attend. However, to avoid an unnecessary journey, we suggest that you contact the court that is dealing with your case to check whether your hearing is going ahead.

If you have questions about an outstanding magistrates' court fine, you should contact the National Compliance and Enforcement Service by emailing NCESBCT@justice.gov.uk or by calling 0300 123 9252.

Bailiffs

The rules which bailiffs have to comply with have been updated due to coronavirus. While the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are in place during the ‘emergency period’, bailiffs are not allowed to take control of goods at residential premises or on highways.

Bailiffs will be allowed to visit residential premises and resume normal enforcement activity from 6am on 23 August 2020, as the ‘emergency period’ will come to an end.

In England, legislation was introduced on 17 November 2020 that stopped bailiffs taking control of goods inside residential premises until 3 December 2020.

Coronavirus: extra support

Buy-to-let landlords

The FCA guidance and advice given in our Help with your mortgage section also applies to most buy-to-let mortgages. See the section for details.

The Government has introduced temporary laws that extend the notice period that you must give a tenant if you are ending a tenancy. For more information, see our Help if you rent your home section.

Tenants and landlords are expected to work together to agree affordable payment arrangements where possible.

The following guidance also contains useful information:

Green Homes Grant

From September 2020, homeowners and landlords in England will be able to apply for vouchers to make their homes more energy efficient. The grant will help to pay for, or towards, the cost of green improvements such as loft, wall and floor insulation. The grant can cover:

  • at least two thirds of the cost (up to £5,000 per household); or
  • for low income households, the full cost (up to £10,000).

Clinically extremely vulnerable

The Government has released new guidance for individuals who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.

In England, if you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, extra support may be available to you. If eligible, you can register on the GOV.UK website. The support available can help you request access to a priority supermarket delivery slot and tell your council what support you need to follow the new guidance.

In Wales, the Government has also provided guidance for individuals who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. The guidance also has a list of organisations which may be able to help you in a variety of areas such as mental health and employment.

Free school meals/vouchers

If your child is eligible for free school meals and has to be at home for reasons relating to coronavirus, the school should make sure that they provide you with food parcels. During the coronavirus pandemic the free school meals scheme may run during the school holidays as well as term time.

Speak to your child’s school to check that this is being done for you. More detail can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Food banks

If you are struggling to buy food, many food banks are staying open to support people during the coronavirus crisis. However, the numbers of sessions are being reduced and you will be given or sent a pre-packed food parcel. You can find your local food bank through The Trussell Trust.

Charitable grants

Many charities offer non-repayable grants to people who are struggling financially. To see if there are any grants which may be able to help you, visit the Turn2us website.

Council assistance support schemes

If you live in England, you can apply to your local welfare assistance scheme. Each council runs their own scheme. Vouchers can be given to help pay for day-to-day essentials, such as a hot meal, furniture or household appliances. Contact your local council to see if you can benefit from their scheme.

If you live in Wales, you can apply for an Emergency Assistance Payment. The payment can help cover the cost of food, clothing gas, electric and emergency travel.