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Coronavirus advice and help (Scotland)
This fact sheet covers Scotland. You will need different advice if you live in England & Wales.
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
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.
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.
Flexible Workforce Development Fund
This fund can provide small and medium businesses with up to £5,000 worth of training. This can be used to provide college or Open University in Scotland training to reskill or upskill employees. For more information, see GOV.SCOT.
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.
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.
The Scottish Government has introduced a temporary law to protect business tenants. If your landlord wants to use an irritancy clause to end your business lease because of rent arrears, they must give you at least 14 weeks’ notice.
Your business rent will still be due. If you cannot afford to pay your business rent, contact your landlord to discuss your situation.
For 2021 to 2022
The following businesses will not pay rates during 2021 - 2022.
- Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.
- Some Scottish airports and handling service providers.
The charitable rates relief for mainstream independent schools will also continue until 1 April 2022.
Contact your local authority to apply for the above reliefs.
For more information on the types of business rates relief available in Scotland, see mygov.scot.
For 2020 to 2021
- Business rates were scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.
- Business rates were also scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for Scottish airports and businesses that provide handling services for scheduled passenger flights at Scottish airports.
- All business rates were given rates relief of 1.6%.
5 June Local Restrictions Grant
This fund will provide grants to some businesses that are in areas which remain under Protection Level 2 restrictions on 5 June 2021. If you have previously received financial support through the Strategic Framework Business Fund, you may be eligible for:
- up to £750 per week for each property if your business has to remain closed at Protection Level 2 from 5 June 2021; or
- up to £525 per week for each property if your business has to modify its operations as a result of being in Protection Level 2.
These grants will be paid automatically by local authorities to eligible businesses, you do not have to apply. It is expected that the first payments will be made by 11 June 2021 and that weekly payments will continue while the Protection Level 2 restrictions remain.
For more information, see GOV.SCOT.
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.
Adopt an Apprentice
This scheme offers £5,000 if you employ modern apprentices and graduate apprentices who have been made redundant. The grant is available to help support certain redundant apprentices to continue their apprenticeships and work towards their qualifications.
Applications will be open until 5pm on 24 June 2021.
For more information, see the Adopt an Apprentice programme rules.
Creative Scotland Funding
Creative Scotland supports a wide range of activity in the arts, screen and creative industries. It has several funds available to individuals, groups and organisations. Go to www.creativescotland.com and see the funding section of the website for more information.
Seafood Producers Resilience Fund
This fund is for shellfish catchers and shellfish and trout aquaculture undertakings. It provides grants to eligible businesses that have lost access to domestic and international food markets because of:
- coronavirus; and
- the difficult trading conditions at the end of the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The amount of grant you get will depend on whether you are claiming as a fishing vessel or as an aquaculture undertaking. Eligibility conditions are also different for each type of business. If your business owns both vessels and aquaculture undertakings, you will have to complete two applications.
For more information and a link to the application forms, see GOV.SCOT.
Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund
This fund provides one-off grants to eligible taxi and private hire drivers and operators.
You may be eligible for a payment of £1,500 if you:
- received a £1,500 grant from the Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund earlier in 2021; and
- held a current and valid local authority taxi or private hire driver licence on 3 June 2021.
You do not need to apply for the grant. Councils will start to make payments automatically towards the end of the week starting 7 June 2021.
You may be eligible for a grant if you or your company hold a taxi or private hire vehicle licence. The amount of the grant will depend on the number of vehicle licences held. The grants start at £1,000 for one vehicle licence, up to a total grant of £15,000 if you hold 50 or more vehicle licences.
You do not need to apply for the grant. Your council should start contacting eligible licence holders from mid-June 2021. The council will ask you for information to consider your claim and for your bank account details.
For more information on the Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund, see GOV.SCOT.
Business Contingency Fund - Phase 1
This fund provides a one-off grant to nightclubs and soft-play centres that that have been closed by law since March 2020. Awards of between £10,000 and £50,000 are based on the rateable value of your premises. Extra rules apply to businesses operating from multiple premises.
You do not need to apply for this funding. Your council should contact you to gather information for a claim. For more details, see GOV.SCOT.
Support for childminders
The Scottish Government has said that a grant of £750 will be paid to all childminders in Scotland who are registered with the Care Inspectorate. For more information, see GOV.SCOT.
The Business Gateway website is run by local authorities. It contains useful information for businesses in Scotland. It also includes details and links to government grants and support, some of which are being managed through other organisations. Go to www.bgateway.com or call 0300 013 4753.
This service was set up to help Scottish businesses find public sector support. It has a coronavirus advice section, which contains links to general and sector specific funding. For more information, go to findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice.
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.
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 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.
If you’ve been with your current employer for two 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
From 28 September 2020, if you are on a low income and are asked to self-isolate you may receive a payment of £500.
Local schemes should have started running by 12 October 2020. If you have been asked to self-isolate from 28 September 2020, the payment will be backdated.
You will be eligible for the payment if you live in Scotland and meet the following criteria:
- you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and have a unique ID number; or
- from 7 December 2020 you need to take time off work to look after a child aged under 16, who has been told to self-isolate;
- 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; and
- 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. From 7 December 2020, you will also be able to claim the payment if you are entitled to Universal Credit but not yet claimed it.
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. Contact your local authority to make a claim.
The payment won’t affect any other benefits and you can make further claims if you meet the criteria.
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.
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.
Help if you rent your home
The Housing and Property Chamber has rescheduled hearings that had previously been postponed due to coronavirus. If your case had been postponed, you will be notified when you should attend the Tribunal.
All mandatory grounds for eviction have become discretionary. This means that the Tribunal that decides whether you should be evicted, can decide not to if they wish.
The Government has introduced temporary rules that mean, in most cases evictions will not be carried out by sheriff officers in Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas until 30 September 2021. There are some exceptions, such as where the eviction was granted due to anti-social or criminal behaviour.
If you are contacted by a sheriff officer who is threatening eviction, contact Shelter Scotland for help.
The Scottish Government has also passed a temporary law to protect tenants in Scotland during the coronavirus period. In most cases, your landlord needs to give you six months' notice before they can start legal action to evict you. The new rules will be in place until at least 31 March 2021. There are some exceptions, such as where a landlord is ending the tenancy due to antisocial and criminal behaviour or because the landlord or their family need to move into the property. More information can be found at Shelter Scotland.
If you are a private tenant, new rules also came into force on 1 October 2020 which cover the process a landlord should follow if they are considering repossession action against you.
- Your landlord should provide you with clear information about the terms of the tenancy, the amount of arrears and your rights in relation to the repossession proceedings.
- Your landlord should try to agree a reasonable plan to with you. They should consider affordability, taking into account your personal and financial circumstances.
- You should be allowed time to consider and seek advice on any proposed payment plan.
- A full list of the pre-action requirements that your landlord now needs to follow can be found on the GOV.SCOT website.
To help with negotiations, SafeDeposits Scotland has a free resolution service. Either you or your landlord can approach them and their aim is to try to stop tenants being evicted.
The Scottish Government has produced a private rented sector (PRS) tenant resource which has detailed information on dealing with rent arrears during the coronavirus pandemic.
If your landlord is unhelpful and you need more support, contact Shelter Scotland on 0808 800 4444.
The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund
The Scottish Government fund offers interest-free loans to private and social sector tenants who are struggling to pay their rent because of the impact of coronavirus.
The fund can be used to cover up to a maximum of nine months of your rent costs. This can include:
- rent arrears that have built up since 1 January 2020; and
- up to three months future rent payments.
For more information and a link to the online application form, see GOV.SCOT.
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 Government has introduced temporary rules. This means that while your mortgage lender can take you to court, no eviction action should be taken if you live in a Tier 3 or Tier 4 area until 30 September 2021.
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.
The FCA has also said that while lenders can continue with repossession action, a firm should not enforce repossession of a property before 1 April 2021. This does not mean that your lender will take court action.
If you cannot afford to pay your mortgage or already have arrears, contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation. If you are at risk of repossession and your lender is unhelpful, contact Shelter Scotland on 0808 800 4444. Information is also available on their website.
Coronavirus and your bills
Help with your council tax
Your 2020-2021 council tax bill
Some councils have 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 collected 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
In Scotland, you usually pay for your water through your council tax bill. However, if you have a water meter then you’ll pay Scottish Water. If you have a water meter and are struggling to pay your bill, contact Scottish Water to see how they can help.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sheriff court fines and hearings
As the courts have temporarily suspended their counter facilities for the payment of fines, you may need to choose another way of paying. For most fines you can use the court online payment system or automated phone system. However, for penalties that need your driving licence to be endorsed, you will need to send your payment and driving licence by post. For more information, see the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.
If you have missed payments on a fine and can now afford to pay the arrears, do so. If you have financial difficulties and are struggling to pay, contact a Fines Enforcement Officer straightaway. Call 0300 790 0014 and explain your situation.
If you have been told to attend a 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.
Coronavirus: extra support
The Scottish Government has said that:
- a landlord should not evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19; and.
- it expects landlords to be flexible with tenants who facing financial hardship and signpost them to available sources of financial support.
- The Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for private landlords and letting agents has more information for landlords. It also includes useful links to the Private Rent Sector Landlord (non-business) COVID-19 Loan Scheme, which offers eligible landlords an interest-free loan to help cover lost rental income from a single property.
The Government has also 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
You can apply for a Crisis Grant through your local council. The grant can cover the cost of an emergency, such as an unexpected crisis or a gap in your normal income.