If you’re employed, the government has announced the job retention scheme which should offer some protection to your salary and job. This guide will look at how the job retention scheme works, your rights to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and what benefits you can claim if you’re not entitled to SSP.

The job retention scheme

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The government has announced it will pay your wages through the coronavirus job retention scheme if your business is forced to temporarily close because of coronavirus.

This will be available to anyone on the PAYE scheme and your employer will need to contact HMRC to apply. In order for you to qualify, your employer will have to re-assign your employment status as a furloughed worker’.

The scheme will pay 80 percent of retained workers’ salaries, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage. Your employer can top up your salary to more than this if they choose to.

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You cannot be asked to do any work for the company that furloughed you. However, if you have another job, or your contract allows you to take another job, you can continue to work and be paid by another company.

Wages under the scheme will be backdated to 1 March and the scheme will be open for at least the end of October, with greater flexibility being introduced from the start of August. There is no limit on amount of funding and the government will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary.

To be eligible, you must have started your employment by 19 March 2020. The first of the grants are hoped to be paid before the end of April so it could take a few weeks to get your money.

If you are struggling to pay bills or other essential costs, see our guide coronavirus and your money.

Changes to the job retention scheme from August

From August, if you’ve been furloughed and have not yet returned to work, you will be able to go back to work part time. The government will no longer pay the full grant and your employer will have to make a contribution as well.

More details about the changes to the job retention scheme will be announced at the end of May 2020.

If my employer has already let me go

If you have already been told your job is gone, you should contact your employer to see if they are now willing to take you back on and reassign you as a furloughed worker.

If you have already made a claim for benefits contact the relevant benefit helpline for advice on what to do before you cancel your claim.

If you have already received a redundancy payment and your employer could now take you back on, speak to your employer or the ACAS helpline for advice on what to do.

Am I entitled to sick pay?

Your rights to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) depend on your employment status and earnings.

If you’re an employee and earn more than £120 a week

If you’re an employee and earn at least £120 a week, you will be able to get £95.85 per week for up to 28 weeks. The government has announced SSP will be paid from the first day you are off sick if it is related to coronavirus.

SSP covers you both if you’re ill and if you need to self isolate because you have been in direct contact with the virus. You will still need to provide a sick note or fit note. You no longer have to go to a doctor to get a sick note or fit note. You can get one by calling NHS 111.

Some employers have more generous contractual sick pay schemes. It is worth checking your contract, staff handbook or with your employer.

If your employer refuses to pay you SSP

The government has said that it will bear the costs of SSP for smaller employers, so claiming it should not be a problem. If you do have a problem, contact the HM Revenue and Customs statutory payment dispute team:

Telephone: 03000 560 630
Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 5pm
Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm

Textphone: 0300 200 3212
Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm

If you’re an employee and earn less than £120 a week

If you’re employed but your earnings are too low to claim SSP, you may be able to claim Universal Credit if you have a low household income and you and your partner or spouse have savings of less than £16,000. You can do this online.

Don’t delay making a claim for benefits, even if you think you might have been affected by coronavirus.

However, if you are already getting any of these benefits being replaced by Universal Credit:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Tax Credits
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance

and need to make a claim for Universal Credit because of coronavirus, check with the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service as soon as possible to find out how they might be affected and to get advice about your situation. If you’re in Scotland, visit the Citizens Advice Scotland website.

Find out more about coronavirus and your rights at work on the ACAS website.
If you’re in Northern Ireland, you should visit the Labour Relations Agency.
Learn more about the different kinds employment status.

If you don’t want to go into work because of coronavirus

If you don’t want to travel or go into work because you’re worried about catching coronavirus your rights are more limited.

If you’re shielding in line with public health guidance because you’re classed as extremely vulnerable, your employer is allowed to furlough you, even if they still have work for you.

Employers are required to listen to your concerns and try and find a way to work around them. You might also be able to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave.

If you have caring responsibilities

If you’re unable to work because of childcare commitments, or you have to stay at home because someone you live with is classed as extremely vulnerable and you can’t work from home your employer can furlough you, even if there is work available.

You’re also entitled to take time off to care for a dependent. There are no rules around how much time you can take off and you should talk to your employers about your options. You might also be able to take time off as holiday leave.

Learn more about time off to care for a dependant on the ACAS website.

If your employer refuses to furlough you

There are several circumstances where your employer can furlough you, even if there is work still available. Your employer might not necessarily be aware of these and you should talk to them about these options.

If your employer is refusing to furlough you even if you have dependants with pre-existing conditions or extremely vulnerable, this might be a breach of your contract.

You might also be able to negotiate an arrangement with your employer for paid leave, or take the time as holiday leave.

It’s important you reach an agreement with your employer before deciding not to turn up to work, as this can be treated as an unauthorised absence.

Find out more on the Working Families website.

If you’re worried about losing your job

The government grants, which allow your employer to cover up to 80 percent of your salary up to £2,500 a month, should minimise the risk of losing your job.

If the company you work for has gone into administration, the administrators might be able to access the same government grant if they intend to keep the business open.

However, If you’re worried that you might be made redundant our Redundancy Handbook can help you prepare.

Lay-offs and reduced hours

If you’ve been asked to take unpaid leave, and your contract allows you to be unpaid during this period, you might be able to claim Guarantee Pay.

You might also be able to claim new-style Jobseekers Allowance and, if you need help with other costs, Universal Credit.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.