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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.

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 the following.

  • VAT payments that were due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. You may also be able to use HMRC’s VAT deferral new payment scheme. This lets you pay your deferred VAT in up to 11 interest-free monthly instalments (although the later you join the scheme, the fewer instalments are available to you). If you want to join the scheme online, you need to apply by 21 June 2021.
  • Self-Assessment payments on account that were due on 31 July 2020.
  • Self-Assessment (including Class 2 National Insurance contributions) that was 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. This can include deferred self-assessment payments on account that were due on 31 July 2020. See GOV.UK for more information, including eligibility details.

Extra time to get a payment arrangement in place and prevent late filing penalties

HMRC also said that they will not charge the 5% late payment penalty that is usually added on 3 March 2021 if you:

  • had paid your tax by 1 April 2021; or
  • had set up a payment plan with them by 1 April 2021.

For more information, see GOV.UK.

Benefit entitlement and Time to Pay arrangements with HMRC

If you need to claim a benefit that requires you to have paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions for the 2019/20 tax year, it is possible that a Time to Pay arrangement with HMRC could delay your benefit claim. This is because HMRC may put your payments toward the July 2020 payment on account before paying your National Insurance contributions. Benefits this could affect include Maternity Allowance and New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

If you are affected by this, you can ask HMRC to put your payments toward your National Insurance contributions first. For more information, see the guidance on GOV.UK.

Extra time for filing your 2019 to 2020 self assessment tax return

HMRC has said that you should not be charged a penalty for filing your 2019 to 2020 self assessment tax return late if it was filed online by 28 February 2021.

You still need to have paid your self assessment tax bill by 31 January 2021 and interest is charged from 1 February 2021 on any outstanding amounts. You can pay online, through your bank or by post before you file.

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.

Reducing Payments on Account

You can ask HMRC to reduce your Payments on Account if you think that your 2020 to 2021 tax bill is going to be lower than your 2019 to 2020 bill (for example, because of a loss of earnings caused by the pandemic).

If you are considering this, be aware that HMRC will charge you interest if it is found that a reduced on account payment is less than it should have been.

For more information, see GOV.UK.

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

The rate of VAT is being temporarily cut on most tourism and hospitality-related activities and on admission charges for some attractions. The rate is reduced from 20%:

  • to 5% from 15 July 2020 until 30 September 2021; and
  • to 12.5% from 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022.

For more information, see GOV.UK.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Grant Extension

The SEISS provides lump sum grant payments. It is for self-employed individuals and members of a business partnership who intend to keep trading, but whose business has been affected by coronavirus.

The fourth grant covered the period 1 February 2021 to 30 April 2021 and has now closed for applications.

The fifth grant will cover May 2021 to September 2021. It will provide a taxable grant for:

  • 80% of three months’ average trading profits (capped at £7,500) if you have a reduction in turnover of 30% or more; or
  • 30% of three months’ average trading profits (capped at £2,850) if you have a reduction in turnover of less than 30%.
  • It will open for applications in July 2021.

For more information, including eligibility conditions, see GOV.UK.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) - Extended

The CJRS will now run until the end of September 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 end of June 2021, HMRC will pay 80% of usual 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.

From July 2021 onwards HMRC is reducing the amount of the CJRS payment.

  • For July 2021, HMRC will pay 70% of usual wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 per month for the hours that an eligible employee is furloughed.
  • For August and September 2021, HMRC will pay 60% of usual wages up to a cap of £1875 per month for the hours that an eligible employee is furloughed.

You will still need to pay employees that you furlough 80% of their usual wages up to the cap of £2,500 per month. This means that from July 2021 onwards you will have to pay the shortfall created by the CJRS reductions. You will also need to pay the employer National Insurance contributions and pension contribution.

Claims can be made on GOV.UK and there are set monthly deadlines.

  • 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).

You can ask HMRC not to 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.

Recovery Loan Scheme

The scheme is open until 31 December 2021.

It allows you to apply for government-backed finance to use for your business needs. The finance available includes:

  • loans and overdrafts of between £25,001 and £10 million per business; and
  • invoice finance and asset finance of between £1,000 and £10 million per business.

A list of the creditors that you can apply to for this scheme is available on the British Business Bank's website.

If you meet the eligibility conditions, you can apply to the Recovery Loan Scheme even if you have already had help from other coronavirus loan schemes.

For more information, see GOV.UK.

The Bounce Back Loan scheme

This scheme closed to new applications and top-up applications on 31 March 2021.

If you have a Bounce Back Loan, no repayments are due for the first 12 months of the loan. For more information about this scheme, see GOV.UK.

Options when your Bounce Back Loan repayments become due

Your lender should write to you at least three months before your Bounce Back Loan repayments are due to start. The letter should explain that that you can ask your lender for the following options.

  • To extend the length of the loan from six years to ten years.
  • To make interest-only payments for six months. You can use this option up to three times during the term of the loan.
  • To pause repayments entirely for up to six months. You can only use this option once during the term of the loan.

You can ask for the above even if you haven’t missed a payment. However, if you use one or more of these options, you will pay more interest overall. Also, the length of your loan will increase in line with any repayment holidays you take.

The FCA has also issued guidance on the collection of Bounce Back Loan repayments.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme closed to new applications on 31 March 2021.

It allowed banks to offer government-backed loans to support small and medium sized businesses. Government also covered the first 12 months of interest payments under the scheme.

If you took out a loan under this scheme:

  • your lender should not have asked you to secure the loan against your home; and
  • for loans under £250,000, should not have asked for a personal guarantee.

For more information, see the British Business Bank website.

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 30 June 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

For businesses in England

The following support has been given for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses and qualifying nursery businesses.

  • Business rates were scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020.
  • 100% business rates relief will be given from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021.
  • 66% business rates relief will be given from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022.

To find out if you qualify, contact your local authority.

For more information on the types of business rates relief available in England, see GOV.UK.

For businesses in Wales

The following support has been given for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or below.

  • Business rates were scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020.
  • 100% business rates relief will be given from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.

Hospitality and leisure sector businesses with a rateable value over £500,000 may get up to 100% business rates relief from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.

To find out if you qualify, contact your local authority.

For more information on the types of business rates relief available in Wales, see GOV.Wales.

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. The scheme pays:

  • 100% of a young person's wages (based on the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage for 25 hours a week) for six months;
  • an amount to cover associated employer National Insurance contributions;
  • an amount to cover employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions;
  • £1,500 per placement to cover setup costs, support and training; and
  • £360 per placement to cover admin costs.

Applications no longer need to be for a minimum number of placements. You can apply online yourself or get help from a Kickstart gateway. See GOV.UK.

For businesses in England

Incentive payments for hiring an apprentice

The Government will give extra incentive payments for businesses that hire new apprentices, who join between the following dates.

Between 1 August 2020 and 31 March 2021

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

Applications must be made before 31 May 2021.

Between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021

  • Government will give businesses £3,000 for apprentices of any age.

Applications can be made from 1 June 2021.

For more information, see GOV.UK - Incentive payments for hiring a new apprentice.

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.

Local authorities will set their own eligibility criteria and level of grants. Some local authorities may have closed applications if they have used up the funding already.

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.

Restart Grants

Restart Grants are one-off payments to help certain businesses with premises to start trading again. There are grants of:

  • up to £6,000 per premises for non-essential retail businesses; and
  • up to £18,000 per premises for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses.

Applications will need to be made through a local authority and have a closing date of 30 June 2021. See GOV.UK for more information.

Fisheries and Seafood Scheme

This scheme is available if your businesses and/or vessels are registered in England.

It offers you financial assistance for projects that support sustainable growth in the catching, processing and aquaculture sectors, and that enhance the marine environment.

It is administered by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and you can apply for funding online using the Fisheries and Seafood Support E-system. If your project has different elements within it, you may need to complete more than one application.

Take a look at the guidance notes for this scheme. They set out what can be funded under the scheme and how much financial support is available to you. For more information, see GOV.UK.

For businesses in Wales

Economic Resilience Fund - May and June 2021 grant

If your business is still affected by coronavirus restrictions, you may be able to claim between £2,500 and £25,000 to help meet your operating costs (excluding staff wages) for 1 May 2021 to 30 June 2021.

If you are eligible, the help you get will be based on the number of employees your business employs and the type of restrictions you are under. For more information, see How much can I apply for? in the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Business Wales Website.

Business Wales shows that businesses which stand to benefit from the support include:

  • nightclubs and late entertainment venues;
  • events and conference venues not covered by the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF);
  • hospitality and leisure businesses, including restaurants, pubs and cafes; and
  • supply chain business, which have been materially impacted by restrictions.

If your business has a turnover of less than £85,000, you will need to make a claim through your local authority. A link to the application form should be available on the Business Wales eligibility checker from 31 May 2021. Also check your local authority's website as this part of the fund will close when the funds are fully allocated.

If your business has a turnover of £85,000 or more, you will need to make a claim on the Business Wales website. It opens for applications on 24 May 2021 and closes at 5pm on 14 June 2021. This part of the scheme is being administered by the Welsh Government and may close earlier if funds are fully allocated.

The eligibility checker is now open on the Business Wales website. Use this to see whether you are eligible for this support.

Employer Incentive Scheme

The Government has said that it will give extra incentive payments for businesses that hire new apprentices. The scheme runs until 30 September 2021 and will give businesses:

  • up to £4,000 for employing a new apprentice;
  • up to £2,600 for re-employing an apprentice made redundant between 23 March 2020 and 30 September 2021; and
  • £1,500 for employing a disabled apprentice (in addition to any new and redundant incentive payments).

There is a maximum limit of 10 new apprentice incentive payments per employer. For more detailed information, see Business Wales.

Business interruption insurance

The Chancellor confirmed in a statement on 17 March 2020 that advice given by Government to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres is sufficient for you to claim on your insurance if you 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.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) test case

As there was widespread uncertainty about what was covered by business interruption insurance policies, the FCA took a test case to court. Based on what the court decided, the FCA has created a policy checker. You can use the FCA’s policy checker to find out if your insurance policy may cover business interruption losses caused by coronavirus and what you can do next.

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 June 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. There is also guidance available if you were furloughed and then made redundant because your employer is insolvent.

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 (or you have been notified of exposure by the NHS contact tracing app if you live in Wales);
  • 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, 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. 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.

Face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits had been suspended. However, they have now restarted for some people. You should only be asked to attend a face-to face assessment if you can’t be assessed another way. This will apply if you receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit and possibly Universal Credit.

If you have concerns about attending an assessment, contact your assessment provider using the contact details on your appointment letter. 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 was increased by £20 per week. This increase will continue until the end of September 2021 and apply to new and existing claimants. The exact amount you will receive will depend on your situation.

The basic element in Working Tax Credit was also increased by £20 per week. This has been extended for a further six months and will be paid as a one-off £500 payment. To be eligible for the payment, on 2 March 2021 you would need to have been:

  • receiving Working Tax Credit only;
  • receiving both Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit; or
  • receiving Child Tax Credit and are eligible for Working Tax Credit but do not get a Working Tax Credit payment because your income is too high.

If eligible, you will automatically receive the £500 payment by the end of April 2021.

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.

Help if you rent your home

In March 2020, the Government introduced temporary regulations to protect tenants. The regulations have been updated several times and set out how much notice your landlord must give you before they can start court action to evict you.

In Wales, from 29 September 2020 until 30 June 2021, regulations say that in most cases a landlord must give you six months' notice.

In England, new regulations say the following notice is needed if your landlord wants to end your tenancy because you owe rent.

  • From 1 June 2021 to 31 July 2021, in most cases where there is less than four months of rent arrears, a landlord must give you four months' notice.
  • From 1 August 2021 to 30 September 2021, in most cases where there is less than four months of rent arrears, a landlord must give you two months' notice.
  • From 1 June 2021 to 30 September 2021, if you owe four months or more of rent arrears, in most cases your landlord only needs to give you four weeks’ notice.

In England, from 1 June 2021, if your landlord uses the section 21 process only, you must be given four months’ notice.

The section 21 process can only be used for assured shorthold tenancies. Your landlord does not need to give a reason, such as rent arrears, for asking for the property back. However, your landlord must follow certain rules. Also, they will need a court order and to use court bailiffs to evict you. Check your paperwork. It will tell you the reason that the landlord has used to ask for the property back.

Court action

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 Wales, the Government has introduced temporary laws that mean in most cases evictions will not be carried out by bailiffs until after 30 June 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 have received possession claim forms, are being threatened with court action (including eviction) 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.

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.

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.

Help with your mortgage

FCA guidance

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 includes the following support.

If you already have an existing payment holiday in place

You can extend your payment holiday up to 31 July 2021, but only if:

  • it doesn’t go over the six-month payment holiday limit; and
  • there is no break in the support.

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 have already had a six-month payment holiday or didn’t ask for one before 1 April 2021

If you are finding it difficult to afford your mortgage payments, contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Ask your lender what forbearance options are available and how they will affect your credit file. Your lender should provide support that is tailored to your circumstances. For example, this may include an agreement:

  • to make reduced payments or no payments for a set period of time; or
  • to change the term of your mortgage.

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.

Possession action in the courts

FCA guidance also said that while lenders could continue with possession action, they should not have enforced repossession of a property before 1 April 2021. This does not mean that your lender will take court action now. However, if your lender 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 Mortgage arrears fact sheet.

Protection from eviction in Wales

Even if possession action is started, temporary laws mean that evictions in Wales should not be carried out by bailiffs until after 30 June 2021.

If your lender is threatening eviction or you have received a notice telling you that you will be evicted, 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.

If you are having payment difficulties due to coronavirus but have not been granted a payment deferral, the firm could still consider extending the redemption period. If the redemption period has already ended, the firm could still agree not to sell the item and suspend any sale. The firm can take these steps if they think it is likely that you will still be able to recover the item.

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.
  • Until 31 January 2021, 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. From 31 January 2021, lenders will be allowed to repossess goods and vehicles, but only as a last resort.

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:

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.