Recent employment news has been dominated by the governments new Plan for Jobs scheme and how it not only seeks to support jobs but to also support individuals.
Plan for Jobs is the second phase of the governments staged recovery from Coronavirus (COVID-19) plan and is tailor made specifically to help individuals find work and gain the skills they need.
Following on from our recent ‘What does the new Plan for Jobs mean for you’ article, our second article in the series ‘Finding work and gaining the skills you need - A Plan for Jobs’ article provided detailed information on how the government is supporting jobs under the Plan for Jobs scheme along with an in depth review of the new Kickstart scheme.
In this, the third article in our Plan for Jobs employment news series, we will be delving deeper into the ‘Supporting Individuals’ section of the initiative.
The Plan for Jobs scheme contains the following provisions to assist individuals in relation to both their work and their personal finances:
- Universal Credit and Legacy benefits - To support families on low incomes changes to the UK’s welfare system increased the financial support for those claiming Universal Credit and Legacy benefits.
- Council Tax Hardship Fund - A new £500 million Hardship Fund is in place to help vulnerable people in England to meet their council tax payments over the coming year.
- Food support - £63 million in funding has been allocated for local authorities in England to assist people struggling to afford food and other essentials.
- Income Tax Self-Assessment - Income Tax Self-Assessment payments due in July 2020 have been deferred to January 2021, helping up to 2.7 million taxpayers across the UK with their finances and cashflow.
- Rent and mortgage payment Holidays - Lenders should pause repossession proceedings until 31 October 2020 to help people to stay in their homes. Additionally, landlords are required to give tenants at least three months’ notice before seeking repossession.
- Off-Payroll Working Rules (IR35) - The government has delayed reform to the off-payroll working rules (commonly known as IR35) in the private and third sectors from April 2020 to April 2021.
- Credit payment holidays - The government has worked with credit providers and the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure the financial sector provides support for people across the UK to manage their finances by providing payment holidays on consumer credit products (loans and credit cards) and support on overdrafts.
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – COVID-19 - Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) related SSP has been made payable from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth, and extended to people self-isolating and shielding.
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) - Two taxable grants worth 80% of average monthly trading profits and 70% of average monthly trading was paid to self-employed individuals whose businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19.
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) - So far, the government has paid the wages for over 9.4 million jobs, enabling 1.1 million employers to keep employees on a period of temporary leave (‘furlough’) throughout lockdown.
Claiming Universal Credit and Legacy benefits
To support families on low incomes, changes to the UK’s welfare system increased the financial support for those in need:
- Claiming Universal Credit – Claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the requirement to attend a jobcentre.
- Universal Credit Standard Allowance and Working Tax Credit Basic Element – Increases to both the Universal Credit Standard Allowance and the Working Tax Credit Basic Element.
- Housing support – Increased housing support for private renters through Local Housing Allowance rates.
- Minimum Income Floor – The requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor have been temporarily relaxed.
- Contributory Employment and Support Allowance – Employment and Support Allowance available from day 1 of sickness rather than day 4.
How do I claim Universal Credit and access discounts? The full scope of what changes have been made to the Universal Credit system, how to claim and how you can access additional grants and discounts is discussed in our recent Universal Credit Perks article.
Council Tax Hardship Fund
The government has established a new £500 million Hardship Fund to help vulnerable people in England to meet their council tax payments over the coming year. All councils have their own schemes providing support to working age council tax payers. The level of support is decided by the council, taking account of local circumstances, but will provide a reduction on council tax bills to lower income households, income and savings will be taken into consideration.
How do I claim a council tax reduction? The fund is open to those in receipt of local council tax support. There is no need for you to make a separate claim for the allocation, your local authority will automatically assess your eligibility and apply the reduction.
The government has announced £63 million funding for local authorities in England to assist people struggling to afford food and other essentials.
The Trussell Trust reported an 89% increase in need for emergency food parcels including an 107% rise in those given to children in April compared to same time last year1. Food banks in the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) also reported a 177% rise in the number of food parcels distributed in May, compared to May last year.2
Local authorities are already working hard to support those who are vulnerable and this additional funding will contribute to that work. Many local authorities have existing mechanisms to provide this support in a way that suits the needs of their community including provision of cash payments, food vouchers and alternative means of support.
How can I access food support? HMRC has provided advice on their website about accessing food and essential supplies.
Income Tax Self-Assessment
The government has supported individuals and the self-employed by temporarily deferring Income Tax Self-Assessment payments. The payments that are due in July 2020 can now be deferred until January 2021, helping up to 2.7 million taxpayers across the UK with their finances.
How can I defer my payment on account? Deferring your payment on account is optional and you do not need to tell HMRC. Additionally, choosing to defer will not stop you from being entitled to other Coronavirus (COVID-19) support from HMRC.
Support for housing and renters
Alongside payment holidays on residential and Buy to Let mortgages, the government has extended the stay on repossession proceedings in the private and social rented sector until 23 August 2020. Lenders have also paused repossession proceedings until 31 October 2020 to help people to stay in their homes.
The government also introduced emergency measures in schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which are in place until 30 September, to require landlords to give tenants at least three months’ notice before seeking repossession.
Where can I get help? The UK charity Shelter has released detailed housing advice on their website to provide information and support to those at risk of repossession and homelessness.
Credit payment holidays
The government has worked with credit providers and the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure the financial sector provides support for people across the UK to manage their finances by providing payment holidays on consumer credit products (loans and credit cards) and support on overdrafts. As of 19 June, 1.9 million mortgage holidays and over 1.8 million payment holidays on consumer credit products were granted.
How do I get a credit payment holiday? Customers need to request a payment freeze or an arranged interest free overdraft of up to £500 directly from your bank or lender – you have until 31st October 2020 to do this. If you have already taken up support and are still experiencing temporary payment difficulties due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), lenders will continue to offer support with options including a further payment deferral or reducing payments to an amount you can afford for a further three months.
At the end of the payment freeze, lenders will contact customers to find out if they can resume payments, if so, a plan will be agreed on how the missed payments can be repaid.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
As of 13th March, COVID-19 related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) was made payable from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth. COVID-19 related SSP is applicable to those who cannot work because of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and extends to people self-isolating and shielding.
SSP is payable (providing you are off work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)) for more than 4 days in a row, including non-working days.
How can I claim Statutory Sick Pay for being off work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)? To claim SSP you must tell your employer by the deadline they set or within 7 days if they have not set one.
If you cannot work for 7 or more days (including non-working days) you will need to show your employer any of the following:
- An ‘isolation note’ if you’re unable to work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- A letter from your doctor advising you to take extra precautions because you’re at very high risk of severe illness from Coronavirus (COVID-19) (known as ‘shielding’).
- Your notification from the NHS or public health authorities if you’ve been told to self-isolate because you’ve come into contact with someone with Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- A letter confirming the date of your procedure if you’ve been advised to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery.
Visit the HMRC website for more information on claiming SSP.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
The government has supported 2.7 million self-employed individuals, including partnerships, whose businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19 with over £7.7 billion awarded in grants so far.
The SEISS grants are made up of two parts, the first taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits was paid in a single instalment capped at £7,500. Until 19 October, eligible applicants can claim a second and final taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, capped at £6,570.
How can I claim a SEISS grant? To be eligible for a SEISS grant you must be self-employed or a member of a partnership and your business must have been adversely affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19). Find out if you are eligible for a SEISS grant on the HMRC website.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
The government has paid the wages for over 9.4 million jobs, enabling 1.1 million employers to keep employees on a period of temporary furlough leave between March and October. Throughout lockdown, employers claimed £27.4 billion to cover 80% of their usual monthly wage costs. As of 1st August, employers were asked to contribute to the cost of furloughing employees.
Can my employer use the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Job Retention Scheme? As at the time of writing (September 2020), in order for your employer to be eligible for the furlough grant they must have previously submitted a claim for you in relation to a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June.
If you are concerned that your employer has not claimed on your behalf, you should speak to the directly. HMRC is unable to provide information about individual applications.
Job help from Jobcentre Plus
Jobcentre Plus, under the Department for Work and Pensions, has created a new website for people looking for work. There currently are over 58,200 vacancies advertised on the site across a variety of sectors as well as information on jobfairs and skills training opportunities by geographical area.
Job help from Blue Arrow
All of our latest temporary and permanent vacancies for industries including warehouse, driving office and hospitality are posted on our website here.
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1 Trussell Trust [Internet] June 2020 https://www.trusselltrust.org/2020/06/03/food-banks-busiest-month/
2 Food Aid Network [Internet] July 2020 https://www.foodaidnetwork.org.uk/ifan-data-since-covid-19