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Mar 20

Coronavirus, Work, Benefits, and Finances: The Ultimate COVID-19 Guide

Reading Time: 36 mins

Make sense of the impact of coronavirus with this COVID-19 guide.

It’s finally happened: public gatherings are advised against, the hospitality industry looks set to take a hit, and we’re all being told to work from home. Schools have just been closed, too – putting sudden and huge pressure on families across the UK.

This ultimate COVID-19 guide will be regularly updated as the pandemic and Government advice changes. We’re here to help you stay calm, discover how to access financial support, and give you some ideas for extra income and money-saving tactics during this unstable time.

It’s a pretty long list – but there’s going to be more to come in the near future. This is an as-near-to-real-time-as-possible guide – so we’ll update it when more information is released.


UPDATE: Chancellor Announces Wages Funding

On March 20th 2020, the Chancellor announced an unprecedented move: the Government will fund 80% of workers’ wages up to £2,500 a month. It applies to any PAYE worker on payroll by 19th March 2020. This will hopefully give peace of mind to those worrying about losing their jobs because of a downturn in business – and is designed to keep the economy going, as people receiving salaries can put it back into the economy.

These payments to businesses will be backdated to the start of the month, and available for at least three months initially. This period could be extended as the crisis continues.

What this means for you

As an employee receiving this money, you can’t work while you get paid. You can find another job, but your entitlement to the 80% will then end. It’s a Government grant to businesses: a company can NOT ask you to pay back any money you receive through the scheme. Your National Insurance contributions, and the Government pension top-up contributions for those enrolled in a workplace pension scheme, will also be covered.

This is for people with PAYE jobs; a more recent announcement was made about the self-employed income support package.


This will end.

The very first thing is to remember that this will end. It will be over at some point. Normality – although perhaps altered – will return. We don’t know when – but it will happen.

Panic is easy when all we see 24/7 is coronavirus stories on the news and on social media. It’s easy to say and harder to do, but try to stay away from ‘social media advisors’. You know the sort – ones spreading news stories without valid sources, those who profess to have a friend-of-a-friend who has experienced such-and-such.

We’re not going to give you medical advice, because we’re not healthcare professionals. Our job here is to make sure you know where to find financial support if your job is suspended or ends, or if your business falters because of the coronavirus crisis. We’re here to show you ways to make extra money, either right now or additional income streams for the future. We’re going to show you how to save money, too, to make sure you’re in the strongest financial position possible at the moment.

Got questions now?

Take a look at the information below (there’s LOTS of it!) but if you still have questions:

We will always answer and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find someone who does!

your employment rights during the coronavirus crisis - COVID-19 guide

Coronavirus and Your Employment Rights

This is the big one. Get a cup of tea and settle in for the long haul.

Advice for the work-from-home crowd

If your boss has told you to work from home, make sure you get certain things in writing from them.

  • What your daily check-in or communications policy is
  • Which tools you’re expected to use (laptop, phone, software etc)
  • Who is responsible for supplying the equipment (your workplace should offer a laptop at the minimum)
  • Confirmation that working from home involves full pay as usual
  • Additional work-from-home allowances may be claimed to cover higher heating and electricity bills – ask how these will be issued and repaid
  • Clarify who pays for the phone bill (or if a phone will be supplied)
  • Check the sick notice policy should you fall ill once working from home (will you qualify for sick pay, when should you tell your manager, etc)
  • How long you’re expected to work from home for – or if this indefinite
  • What support networks are in place to help you do your job well (such as Whatsapp or Slack groups).

It might feel like a faff asking these questions at such a busy time – but it’s important to get everything in writing now. It can help protect you against queries later on down the line, such as how to reclaim the expenses of working from home.

Working from Home Expenses Claims

A little-known expense you can claim is the Home Working Allowance. As a PAYE employee, you need your employer to agree – in writing – that you can claim this allowance.
It’s £4 a week extra until 6th April 2020, when it goes up to £6 a week. Your employer can pay you more if you choose. Alternatively, if your bills are higher – say because you’re using your personal phone for work calls – you can expense specific costs to your employer.

Season ticket refunds

Updated 23rd March 2020: The Government has suspended all rail franchises across the UK for at least six months. That means the Government have taken over operation of all rail services for this period, to make sure key workers and freight lines continue to be able to travel with ease during the crisis. Trains are running on a significantly reduced timetable. Only travel if you must (such as to go to work).

If you hold an advance ticket for any train company, or have a season ticket for your daily commute, contact the rail provider you bought it from. They will refund you. Some people have reported they’re not receiving a full refund – it depends on when you purchased your ticket, the travel operator, and the class of ticket. Those with first-class season tickets are likely to lose the most because refunds are calculated based on the next-cheapest ticket (rather than the one you’ve purchased).

Self-Isolating: Your Financial Rights

The Government has announced that anyone in a household with someone displaying coronavirus symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days. This means you can’t go to work, even if you’re healthy.

  • First, talk to your employer about working from home. Doing this will entitle you to full pay as standard.
  • If working from home isn’t possible, you could qualify for paid holiday or sick leave entitlements. Speak to your boss about the packages your workplace are offering in the first instance.
  • Many places won’t offer sick pay, though. If this is the case with you, you’ll qualify for Statutory Sick Pay from the first day of self-isolation. It’s only £94.25 a week, which isn’t enough to cover most people’s living expenses – but keep reading below to find out how you can boost your income or cut back to make sure you can cover your bills next month.

School Closures

The schools close on March 20th 2020 indefinitely. That means every family must now – suddenly – accommodate childcare around their work commitments. If this has caused an immediate problem for you, speak to your employer as soon as possible. Find out if you can negotiate working from home, altered or reduced hours, or if you can bring children to work (if they can be in a non-customer-facing area).

You can now request to be furloughed if you cannot arrange childcare and your company is still operating (even working from home). This is where the company applies for a grant from the Job Retention Scheme from the Government – which means 80% of your pay will be covered. You need to request this from your employer – they don’t have to oblige, but many are being as considerate as possible. If your 80% pay doesn’t cover your expenses, you could also be eligible for some money from Universal Credit.

What is Furlough?

Many companies have, or will, furlough their staff. They won’t get the money from the Government for at least a month, so they need to have enough to pay 80% of your wages, NI contributions, and pension contributions up-front. A company can choose to pay the other 20% – but they don’t have to. If you’re furloughed, you can’t work for the company until you’re taken off the scheme and officially return to work on full salary. You can, however, take another job in the interim to top up your income. This could affect your annual taxes – but is a good way to make sure you’re covering all of your bills.

You can’t furlough yourself; you have to ask your employer to do it on your behalf. The idea is that people can keep their jobs so that when this is all over, businesses can recall their staff to re-open and operate as normal, without having to re-hire lots of people. To get the furlough grant, the business has to agree that they intend to operate beyond the crisis and retain as many roles at the business as possible.

How furlough works

Your 80% pay includes required contributions such as National Insurance and pension contributions. Your employer, however, is allowed to defer THEIR required pension contributions – so your pension pot might not look quite the same as you’d expect for a few months. They will have to pay it – just a bit later than usual.

The pay is also worked out on your February earnings. It doesn’t include any bonuses or commission you receive – just your basic salary. If you’ve worked irregular hours, or have been on maternity leave on reduced pay, you can request that your last 12 months’ earnings are averaged out to work out the 80% figure.

You CAN work another job with another company while you’re on furlough. This will be reflected in your PAYE tax deductions but is a good way to make up the shortfall of the 20% lost earnings.

Advice for Zero Hours Workers Without Work

Many zero hours workers are based in the industries hardest hit, like cafes, pubs, and retail.

Those who have worked regular hours (despite the zero hour contract) have a right to request to be furloughed (see above). If your February hours were very low, or you work irregular hours across the year, you can request for your last 12-months’ hours to be averaged out to get your furlough figure. This is instead of using just your February pay.

If you’re healthy but have no work, register for Universal Credit right away. It is quite a small amount of money and can take several weeks to get the benefit – but it’s better than nothing for now and it will entitle you to additional discounts such as local travel cards, eye tests, and dental treatment. This might not help in the immediate term but can help reduce your bills as money gets tighter.

Universal Credit should provide you with some support for your housing costs, too. You’ll also receive a Council Tax reduction in most cases.

Universal Credit can take several weeks to receive. If you need money now, you can apply for an advance payment – however, remember this is treated like an interest-free loan and will be deducted in installments from future Universal Credit payments.

Self-Isolation and Sickness

If you’ve been sent home to self-isolate because you could be or are definitely sick, you could be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. This is £94.25 a week. Speak to your employer to find out if you’re eligible for employer-based or statutory sick pay.

If you don’t qualify for SSP – and that’s particularly true if you’re self-employed or on a zero-hours contract – it’s time to register for Universal Credit. It’s not an ideal system, we know, but through this you can access Employment and Support Allowance of £94.25 a week plus additional help towards housing costs.

When applying for Universal Credit, always go via the online application first unless you have a disability that prevents you from doing so. If you call the helpline, they’re either so busy you can’t get through right now, or they’ll redirect you online anyway. Save time and go online in the first instance. In the first 9 days of the crisis, almost half a million people tried to apply – so be prepared to sit and wait in a very long online queue to complete your application.

On March 17th the Chancellor told people also to contact their local authority if they had an urgent financial need. He said that local authorities have emergency funds that they can distribute. However, he didn’t give much more detail.

COVID-19 Guide for people with disabilities

Employment Rights for People with Disabilities

If you regularly work in an office or other place of work and have a disability, your employer needs to assess your needs. They have to decide if you can safely conduct your work from home – and what specialist equipment they should provide for you to do so.

Some people may not be able to carry out their work at home. If this is the case, and your workplace is closed, you should receive full pay.

Many people with disabilities have compromised immune systems, too. If you’re in an at-risk group, you’re entitled to request home working in the first instance. If this is refused, you could claim sick pay or statutory sick pay. However, most employers should be willing to support people with disabilities to work from home or receive full pay where appropriate. If you’re finding this difficult, speak to ACAS for additional advice about your particular situation.

Advice for the Newly Unemployed

Not only are we faced with businesses going under from coronavirus – high street shops like Carphone Warehouse and Laura Ashley have announced (apparently unrelated to COVID-19) closures this week, too.

If you’re facing sudden unemployment, again, our first instruction is to register as soon as you can with Universal Credit. The sooner you apply, the earlier the payments are backdated to. Every day you delay applying is a further day at the other end without a payment!

You may also be eligible for a redundancy package. This depends on how long you’ve served at the company; it’s usually only available to employees of two years’ service or more. Some companies will extend this to less than two years’ service – but they don’t have to. Your age will also impact the amount you’ll receive in a basic redundancy package.

You MUST be paid all accrued holiday pay, regardless of the length of service. If you’ve taken too many holidays this financial year, you could have your final pay deducted by the overpayment of holiday days taken.

Requesting Furlough

If you’ve been made redundant in March because your company thought the coronavirus would mean they couldn’t afford you – go back and ask if they’ll re-hire you to be a furloughed worker. The Job Retention Scheme means they can apply for 80% of your wages to be paid – as a grant (so at no cost to the business) – as a furloughed worker. That means you don’t have to work while businesses are closed – but you’ll still get 80% of the salary you earned in February.

Where to find redundancy and job seeking advice

The Money Advice Service has a useful redundancy guide here.

Also see our articles on how to deal with redundancy here and redundancy for over-50s here.

It’s also not a time to panic too much. You’ve now got lots of freedom to find new career opportunities – which, you may be surprised to hear – there are plenty of in this time of crisis.

Take a look at the main job sites to start you off:

In fact, now is also a good time to brush up your CV, and get some friends or family members to give you mock interviews so that you’re ready to find a new role.

We’ve also just released this list of industries (including specific examples!) of new job vacancies available in the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus and Self-Employed Rights (Contractors)

the COIVD-19 guide to self-employed support

It feels like you’ve been left out in the cold. But don’t panic: there are things you – and the 5 million self-employed in the UK – can do to keep going in these times.

The good news is many self-employed are already set up to work from home. Business disruption may not be a problem for you, if you already work remotely with your clients.

IR35 Is Officially Delayed

For many of you worried about the off-payroll tax issue and IR35 ruling, you can relax. It’s now been officially postponed until April 2021 – giving you an extra year to work as a contractor without facing extra employee-style taxes.

Businesses may be worrying right now – but stand firm: as staff take sick time, those wanting business continuity or see opportunities in this crisis will be relying on contractors for support. Your work may be being whipped from under your feet right now – but in a few weeks’ time when things are clearer, you may find your phone doesn’t stop ringing!

The Chancellor’s Rescue Package for Freelancers

On March 26th 2020, the Chancellor finally announced assistance for some self-employed people.

The income support scheme will pay a taxable grant up to 80% of their average 3 year earnings, for at least 3 months. This is capped at £2,500 each month to match thr PAYE employee deal.

  1. You can apply if you have average earnings up to £50,000 a year.
  2. You must have at least one tax return from the 2018/19 tax year.
  3. You apply via a short form on HMRC’s website.
  4. The grant is taxable.
  5. Payments will be made in a lump sum in JUNE – so you need to find another way to supplement cash flow until then.
  6. There will be changes to future taxes to bring self-employed into line with PAYE employees.

If you don’t qualify for the above, self-employed people can now access the business interruption loan schemes and Universal Credit has been extended to account for those living with partners out of work.

We’ve got this outlined in more detail here.

What about Ltd Companies?

Many self-employed people are directors of their own Limited Company. This puts them in a strange position: typically, they’ll pay themselves a smaller salary each year and make up the rest of their income from dividends (on which they pay corporation tax instead of income tax).

The Government has confirmed that, if you’re in this position, you can furlough yourself. However, that means you’ll only receive 80% of your PAYE salary – and nothing from your dividend income. It also means you can’t carry on working except for ‘legal and administrative roles of a company director’. So, you can’t keep working with clients or pitching for business, but you can do what’s necessary to keep your business ticking over (such as completing tax returns etc).

HMRC has, however, confirmed that you can take a different PAYE job while you’re furloughed. You need to declare the income on your next tax return, as you normally would (plus your furloughed income).

If you live in Wales, you may qualify for up to £10,000 in the form of a grant for micro-businesses. Find out more here.

Universal Credit is Your First Port of Call

If you need immediate financial assistance because your work has dried up, there is some support. There is an unprecedented demand for Universal Credit right now – but you need to get into the system as soon as possible if you want to be able to get financial support as quickly as you can.

For the self-employed who are sick, Employment and Support Allowance (£94.25 a week) is available through Universal Credit. If you simply have no work – but are continuing to look for work – Universal Credit covers Jobseeker’s Allowance. You can also apply for extra costs to cover housing expenses.

Got savings for taxes?

Usually, capital over £16,000 means you can’t get Universal Credit. However, the DWP has confirmed that self-employed people registering for Universal Credit will NOT have their savings set aside for taxes taken into account. Ideally, you’ll need to have these savings in a separate business account to make it clear they’re for your next tax return. If the money is in a personal savings account, it’s a good idea to use other proof – such as an estimate from HMRC’s Self Assessment calculator – to show how much you need to pay on your next tax return. (Remember to factor in savings for Payments on Account, too – which means you can keep back more from your savings for taxes than the estimate may show).

When you apply for UC, make a note in your journal outlining how much of your savings is assigned to your next tax bill. This means it won’t be taken into account when working out how much Universal Credit you’re eligible to receive – so definitely do it!

Additional help from your local authority

Self-employed contractors and freelancers may also be eligible for council tax reductions – but will need to qualify for Universal Credit first. If you’re in temporary dire straits, local authorities will also have hardship funds to distribute. Each council is distributing grants based on their individual criteria, so it’s worth contacting your local authority to find out where and how to apply.

It’s not a long-term solution

Again, we reiterate that Universal Credit is not a lot of money and it takes weeks to come in. At the best of times it takes around five weeks but there are many, many more people applying for it now so it will take longer. However, it is better than nothing.

Once you’re getting monthly payments you can continue to do so until your business recovers.

The Government has removed the Minimum Income Floor requirement – meaning you don’t have to reach a particular income level to qualify for Universal Credit now.

You’ll continue getting support as you start work again

As your business grows again, your Universal Credit decreases. It doesn’t just suddenly stop. Monthly income and expenses reporting to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) means you’ll get support every month you need it. Even if you have one really good month, if the next month sees no income you’ll get a UC payment again.

Once you start earning again, and earn over £569.22 in one month, you’ll qualify for the Help to Save Account. This scheme encourages small saving habits – and could net you a free £1200 bonus from the Government.

N.B. Jasmine is campaigning to increase the amount that Universal Credit claimants get and to decrease the amount of time it takes for them to receive it, but it’s a long process. If you have found UC to be inadequate for your needs, contact your local MP to add your voice to the campaign.

Attack Debt Head-On

If debt is going to cripple your business and your lifestyle, tackle it right away. Contact Stepchange’s dedicated free Business Debtline on 0800 197 6026 for free and specialised advice for the self-employed.

Get Talking to Your Network

As a self-employed contractor, your network is your most powerful income tool right now. Get out there on social media, get on the phone, send emails: let your contacts know that you’re looking for work.

If your work isn’t home-based – for example, if you run a hospitality business – your network can still help. You can turn your skills to alternative things to generate income! For example, if you’re a self-employed chef, consider offering Skype one-to-one cooking classes.

Find Ways to Adapt for Business Continuity

You might find that your clients are still in need of your service – but you need to adapt to provide it.

  • For example, if you’re a counsellor, you could move your appointments to online video calls instead of in-person sessions. Or, you could also offer phone appointments or email exchanges for those who aren’t in a position to openly video call you (especially if they’re stuck at home with their entire family in isolation!).
  • Perhaps your business could adapt – if you’re an in-salon hairdresser, consider offering a mobile service to customers. You’ll need to communicate clearly about your (and your customers’) obligations to health and cleanliness – such making sure hand sanitiser is supplied at each appointment and your equipment is cleaned more regularly.
  • If childcare is an issue, especially if the schools close, consider finding local self-employed contractors in need of childcare, too. If you can work from home, why not offer a childcare day for their children in return for them looking after your child once or twice a week, too. Of course, this applies only if children are at home for reasons other than self-isolation and illness!

Call the Dedicated HMRC Helpline

HMRC has set up a dedicated hotline for self-employed contractors to provide advice and assistance.

Call them on 0300 456 3565 to find out about more benefits, financial assistance, and employment information for self-employed contractors. You may be able to go with the Time to Pay scheme to delay your tax payments – but be aware that this can cost you more in the long-term due to interest payments.

Actors and Musicians

Coronavirus cancellations affect theatres, gigs, festivals, and all types of events

This is a particularly worrying time for anyone working in the arts. Venues have closed and gigs and shows cancelled last-minute. You may not yet know if you’ll be paid or if you’ve lost money on time spent in rehearsals.

We’re working on a guide for freelancers in the arts right now – but here’s the short-term advice.

  1. Sign up for Universal Credit
  2. Speak to your agent, event organisers, and venues to confirm outstanding payment issues
  3. Consider how to continue promoting yourself while work is suspended.

John Byrne, writer for The Stage’s Dear John column, says there are things you can do while events are postponed.
“You will probably not be surprised to know that theatrical castings are likely to taper off for a least the short term until producers/venues have a better idea of the prognosis for re-opening. Similarly, screen castings are also likely to be affected with sets and studios temporarily shutting down here and overseas.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be castings (for both stage and screen) but they are likely to be self-tapes for the near future.”

So, if you’re an actor, work on creating more promotional tapes from home. Castings are still happening – they’re just changing. The positive result of this is that, once venues reopen, there’ll be a glut of work for artists across the UK.

Musicians can use this quiet time to create and sell merchandise, either with an online shop or through your social media. You could also see the downtime as an opportunity to work on upcoming albums or songs – or even launch your latest album with a digital party! Check out our article for more ideas to make money as a creative during coronavirus lockdown.

Accessing Benefits During the Coronavirus Crisis

The key point from all of the above is this: if your hours have reduced, work has dried up, or you’re home sick or self-isolating, get onto the Universal Credit website NOW. It’s not much – but registering now gets you in the system to get SOMETHING towards your bills.

We know, however, it won’t cover everything. Local authorities have been told they’re getting emergency funding to deal with a wide range of issues faced by local residents – but at this point in time, we don’t know how you can access these funds. If you’re in immediate difficulty, call your local council office and they’ll direct you to the right place.

The charity, Turn2Us, has also update its online benefits calculator. This reflects the recent changes to statutory sick pay etc, so using this calculator will give you a clear idea with up-to-date informaiton about other benefits you may be able to claim to help top up your income. You can also try their Grants Search to find additional funding for people in crisis.


The COVID-19 Guide for Small Business Owners with Employees

COVID-19 Guide for Business Owners

This pandemic has hit businesses of all sizes very hard. As a business owner, your priority will of course be to ensure business continuity wherever possible – and to support employees while reducing the risk of layoffs.

It’s not going to be an easy ride – but there is some light at the end of the tunnel for you. To date, the Government has assured:

  • SSP refunds up to 14 days for each employee for all businesses with fewer than 250 employees
  • Scrapped business rates for hospitality, arts, retail and any A2 category businesses with a rateable value below £50,000
  • Funding grants between £10,000 to £25,000 for small businesses
  • Three-month mortgage holidays
  • A discount on pub rates from £1000 to £5000
  • In Scotland, grants up to £3000 to small businesses in the worst-hit sectors (like hospitality)
  • Grants to all businesses in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rates Relief, up to £3000
  • Access to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan
  • Extensions to the HMRC Time to Pay scheme

From 17th March 2020, Boris Johnson announced business financial support in the form of £330bn in Government-backed, and guaranteed, loans for companies to maintain cashflow and keep going through the crisis.

On March 18th 2020, the Chancellor clarified that grants between £10,000 to £25,000 will be issued to all small businesses that currently receive Small Business Rates Relief – regardless of whether your business experiences a downturn. How much a business receives is based on a tapered allowance; hospitality businesses will receive the upper end of this grant limit.

On March 20th, the Chancellor announced the Government will pay 80% of employees’ salaries up to £2,500 each a month. This’ll be dated from 1st March and initially be for 3 months but could be extended. This is to stop you from feeling like you have to make redundancies in this downturn.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, confirmed on 25th March 2020 that the 100% business rates relief will be extended to those in the A2 business rates category – so law offices, estate agents, letting agencies, bookies, bingo halls, and similar businesses.

If you’re in Scotland:

The new extended grant scheme brings financial support into line with businesses in England. Originally, you’d only get 100% relief on the Small Business Bonus Scheme on the first of your business premises, and nothing on the rest. Now, you’ll receive 100% on the first and 75% on the remaining properties, if you’re eligible for the SBBS. Your rateable value must be below £35,000 overall, and no more than £18,000 on any one property to qualify.

If you qualify for the SBBS scheme, Nursery Relief, or Disabled Relief, you’ll also be eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000, distributed by your local authority.

If Your Business is Still Open

Keeping your business running is a priority for most small to medium-sized business owners. It keeps cashflow going and helps protect against collapse. But how does it work – and how do you keep customers returning to use your services at this time?

Sick pay for employees

Usually, employees can self-certificate for 7 days before the need to supply you with a sick note. However, Government advice for 14-day self-isolation and overwhelmed medical services makes this difficult.

Bosses are asked to exercise common sense and leniency:

  • if your employees are sick with coronavirus, they can claim SSP from the first day they report it to you.
  • if they’re in a household with a sick person, try to offer them a work-from-home solution to keep as much business continuity (and financial continuity for them, too).

Enforcing Holiday Leave

If it’s not possible for employees to work from home, such as retail staff or hospitality workers, but they must self-isolate, you can ask them to take their accrued holiday.
However, you need to do this in writing with notice. So if you plan to ask employees to take accrued holiday before moving them to SSP or sick pay, make sure you communicate this to them now.

Home working

Moving from an office environment to home working for the entire workforce is a massive shift. You might be tempted to keep checking in and micro-managing your staff – but take a step back.

That’s not sustainable for you, and it’ll not increase productivity for your employees either.

  • Make sure your staff have the equipment and software they need to carry out their jobs from home.
  • Set up some basic essential requirements, such as checking in at the start and end of each day. Then: let them get on with their jobs!
  • If you’re worried work has slowed or things aren’t getting done, speak to your staff individually.
  • You may find they’re struggling to make the shift, that their home situation (such as children home from school) affects their work, or that they’re feeling depressed and anxious. This is a new situation for everyone – so make sure employees don’t feel ‘picked on’ – but supported.

Time off for childcare

Schools will be closed from March 20th 2020 except for children of key workers or the most vulnerable children (i.e., those with social workers or additional needs).

As an employer, you must allow time off for emergency childcare – but you don’t have provide pay for this time off. However, we’re encouraging all businesses to operate with understanding and leniency, and to find ways to manage the situation. Home working is, of course, the first option – but if your staff must be on-site, consider alternatives you can offer them. It may be that you’ll allow children to come to work if they stay in non-customer-facing areas, or allow parents to work reduced hours.

Pension Contributions

You will still need to make pension contributions for your employees. However, the pensions regulator has confirmed it will temporarily suspend penalties for late contributions over the next few months to help ease cashflow. You will have to make the same contributions overall, but can temporarily suspend your payments if that will help your immediate financial situation.

What about international clients?

Of course, the pandemic isn’t affecting only the UK. Clients and suppliers across the world are affected.

If you can, get in touch with your international suppliers and clients to see what their situation is. You may need to delay work, or you could adapt to other ways of working such as using online tools instead of travelling internationally for meetings.

Clean your business premises during coronavirus

Communicating cleanliness

If you deal with customers face-to-face, or – for example – you’re a restaurant ramping up your takeaway options – communicate clearly to your customers what your coronavirus plan is.

Tell them what you’re doing to implement extra precautions – such as regular cleaning, requesting visitors to use hand sanitiser – to protect your staff and your customers.
Deliveroo is a good example of how to do this. They now operate a ‘contactless delivery’ service. This is where the courier rings the doorbell, leaves the package on the doorstep and steps back a few paces. Once the package is collected, the courier will leave (but not until the package is safe in the customer’s hands). This limits physical contact and protects both customer and delivery driver. Other delivery services are increasingly adopting this method of leaving parcels, too.

Will Your Business Insurance Cover Closures?

Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t looking great here for most businesses.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) released a statement on 17th March 2020. The crux of it? “The vast majority of firms won’t have purchased cover that will enable them to claim on their insurance to compensate for their business being closed by the Coronavirus.”

Standard interruption cover doesn’t cover forced closure by authorities. Unless you have extensive cover that specifically includes closure by infectious disease, your business may not qualify for insurance cover.

The ABI has produced a handy Q and A about insurance during the coronavirus situation here, which explains more about how business insurances work under these circumstances.

Connect with other business owners on the forum

The new MoneyMagpie Messageboard has dedicated forums for business owners and the self-employed, to help you navigate these tricky times. Check it out here.

What About Over 70s, Self-Isolation, and Related Costs?

Another major financial concern is for those over the age of 70. It’s expected that isolation for 12 weeks will be a requirement for over-70s will be announced in the next few days – but how will that affect finances?

For those in care homes, this could mean an unexpected and additional bill of 12 weeks’ residential care. Some permanently live in care homes – but those staying for respite or recovery from hospital admissions would have been expecting to leave. If they can’t, they may face a huge and unexpected bill.

Unfortunately, at this time, we don’t know what support will be available. We’re going to keep you posted on this as soon as we know more.

Care in the home

For independent older people who still live in their home, there are massive implications to self-isolation. Not being able to have visitors or see family will have a huge impact on their mental health.

More than that, it’s likely that many of these older people will need additional help for shopping, cooking, and general assistance like cleaning. This could mean additional and unexpected care costs for older people on a tight retirement income.

Again, we don’t have much information yet about support available. If you, or your older parents, are in a situation facing isolation and need additional help, contact your local authority. They’re the front line in social care and may have local schemes to help out in the short term, while everything gets sorted!

THe COVID-19 Guide to Travel Bans and Finances

Coronavirus cancellations could affect holiday plans

We can’t write a COVID-19 guide without mentioning travel and finances!

There’s a comprehensive guide to travel and coronavirus here.

The short of it is this:

  • Global travel restrictions affect business and leisure trips for the foreseeable future
  • Now the Government has advised against international travel, it should be easier to claim refunds
  • Contact your travel operator and accommodation first to seek refunds
  • If you have no luck, speak to your travel insurance provider
  • If you STILL have no luck, your credit card provider is liable for refunds so contact them, too.

Are you stuck abroad right now?

If you’re stuck abroad at the moment, do NOT accept a refund for a cancelled flight! This absolves the airline of their responsibility to get you home. You could be stranded for who-knows-how-long and your extra accommodation costs won’t be covered.

Instead, insist that you won’t accept a refund or a voucher. The airline has a legal obligation to get you home – and may also have to cover accommodation costs if you have to stay longer than planned.

Your Car and MOT

On 25th March 2020, the Department of Transport confirmed anyone requiring an MOT on their car from 30th March 2020 has until 30th October to get it done. This is a 6-month extension to relieve pressure and keep vital businesses open. You’ll need to keep your car roadworthy at all times, though! Garages are considered essential businesses, so will remain open for emergency repairs.

This delay could save you some cash, too, while you’re in the current when-do-I-get-paid limbo that many of us are facing. An MOT costs around £60 – so being able to delay it by a few months is helpful for those stretching the pennies.

Have You Lost Money from Event Cancellations?

Coronavirus cancellations

A lot of us have had our gigs, theatre shows, or conferences cancelled lately. Where does that leave you?

We’ve got a full guide to getting your coronavirus refunds here.

The outline is:

  1. Contact the organiser first
  2. Organisers that postpone events don’t have to refund until they announce the new date
  3. Ask your ticketing platform about refunds
  4. Your credit card provider could help with a refund

You might not get all of your money back – but it’s worth fighting for.

Got a wedding coming up?

As of 23rd March 2020, all weddings, baptisms, and other events have been banned by the Government for at least three months. Your venue, celebrants, and suppliers should work with you to move your wedding date as soon as the restrictions have been lifted. We’re working on a comprehensive article right now about this and will link to it here when it’s live!

If you’ve got a later 2020 wedding planned, there’s no doubt coronavirus is on your mind. Will your guests want to go? Will mass gatherings even be allowed? What if venues have to close?

Does wedding insurance cover you?

The first step is, if you haven’t already, get wedding insurance right now! Even if coronavirus passes before your wedding, insurance is vital to protect you against last-minute cancellations from suppliers or venues. (Unfortunately, new policies may not cover coronavirus-specific issues – but will still cover things like venue cancellations).

If your venue cancels, they should refund your entire payment to date, including any deposits. If they tell you that deposits are non-refundable, that’s not accurate. By cancelling the event, they’ve breached the contract – your consumer rights include a full and total refund. Be prepared to fight it! Your venue may offer a new date to re-book your wedding in the future, instead of offering a refund. However, if that date is unsuitable (for example, you can show that none of your currently-booked suppliers can make the future date), your wedding insurance is more likely to assist with reclaiming your costs.

Some may find their small business suppliers have gone out of business due to cancelled bookings through the coronavirus crisis. Alas, here there is little you can do if you don’t have wedding insurance. You can try to contact the supplier to see if they can repay at least some of your deposit – but you could lose your money altogether.

Check out the forum for more help

Our new MoneyMagpie Messageboard has a dedicated coronavirus refunds forum. Post your questions and get stuck in with Magpie conversations to learn more about claiming the money you’re entitled to!

Housing Costs: Mortgage and Rent Payments

COIVD-19 Guide to housing assistance

The largest part of any household expense each month, many are worried about making their mortgage repayments or rent in the upcoming months. As more rely on statutory sick pay, low-level Universal Credit, or reduced working hours, housing costs are a priority.

Mortgage Repayments

The Chancellor announced on 17th March 2020 that mortgage holidays will be allowed. You can ask for up to a three-month repayment holiday on your mortgage to give you some breathing space. This holiday applies to homeowners and buy-to-let landlords, to allow them to pass on the payment reduction or holiday to their tenants.

It has been clarified that this will not affect your credit score. You must agree your repayment holiday first though – if you just skip a payment without agreeing this with your bank, it will show as a default on your credit record. All high street banks now offer a quick online solution to request a mortgage holiday. Visit your bank’s website to find out how to apply.

It’s not free

A mortgage holiday doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay that money at all. It’s really a mortgage ‘deferment’ and means you will have to pay it, just a bit later. This will increase subsequent repayment amounts slightly when you do start making repayments. This is so that the bank can recover the lost amounts.

Check with your mortgage provider about a mortgage holiday and ask them to clarify how it’ll affect longer-term costs of your repayments and interest. Many people are experiencing long delays on the phone trying to contact their bank at the moment. If you need a mortgage holiday, but your direct debit goes out in more than six days, try again when it is due in under this time. Alternatively, many banks like Nationwide have now set up an online application form so you don’t have to sit on the phone for hours.

Rent Payments

Unfortunately, we’re still awaiting additional support for the 4 million renters in the UK. (There should be an announcement later on March 18th – we’ll update as soon as we have details).

The first thing to do if you’re worried about making your rent in the coming months is to speak to your landlord.

  • They’re not obliged to give you a payment holiday – but may be more lenient, especially if their mortgage lender allows a repayment holiday.
  • Talking to your landlord may open other options, such as reduced rent in return for undertaking some property redecoration for the landlord.

Those in receipt of Universal Credit will have some of their housing costs covered, up to the Local Housing Allowance for the relevant age bracket and area.

If you’re in dire straits even with this allowance, you can apply to your local authority for a Discretionary Housing Grant to top up your rent for a short-term period. This could take some weeks to come through even once granted, so make sure you talk to your landlord and explain the delayed payment.

Eviction Ban

On March 18th 2020, Boris Johnson announced that no landlords would be allowed to start the eviction process for tenants for three months. This is hopefully only the first of several steps to protect private and social tenants who may be worried about what could happen if they aren’t able to cover their rent in coming months.

We’re going to keep you posted on financial support for renters as and when it comes in.

Remember, if you’re renting and scared that you won’t be able to meet your bills, you can go NOW to one of the debt advice agencies to get help and advice.

Local authorities will also have an emergency fund for people in need – contact your council and find out how you can apply for extra financial assistance.

Where to Find Food Banks

COIVD-19 Guide to food banks

From March 20th 2020, most supermarkets are now putting restrictions in place on the number of groceries each customer can buy. Limits to 2 or 3 of a product are designed to reduce panic buying and ensure smooth stock supply. If you can afford groceries, even basics, rest assured that supply chains are not disrupted and there is plenty of food to go around. The new rationing system is to ensure everyone can access food and prevents the empty-shelf scenario we’ve seen this week.

If you can’t afford basic groceries, a food bank can help.

Food banks are an emergency resource for people who don’t have enough money to feed themselves or their families. Food is donated by shops or individuals and you can expect a basic package including things like tea, pasta, soup, tinned meat and vegetables, milk, rice, and tomato or pasta sauce. It’ll provide at least three days’ nutrition.

Already over-subscribed, food banks are the last resort. Many people rely on them to feed their families, so please only access your nearest one if you really need it. You’ll need a referral from your local authority or a charity to access a food bank.

Find a food bank

Local churches also offer emergency food support – regardless of your faith – although access to these may be limited due to places of worship closing during the pandemic.

With coronavirus restrictions, how you access your food bank may differ from usual. When you have your referral, get in touch with the food bank to find out how you can collect your emergency food parcel.

Worried About Debt?

Of course, you might not be immediately worried about debt now – but if you know you’re going to rely on savings, spend more on your credit card, or need a loan to cover rent, it’s worth looking at your options now.

Contact a free debt advice charity as soon as you start to worry about your debts. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hundred pounds or a hundred thousand pounds in debt – these charities are here to help.

Go to the free ones, even if you have to wait a while to be spoken to:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) which provide free, confidential and independent advice from thousands of locations in the UK.
  • StepChange is a debt charity offering an online debt remedy service and free debt advice in person or on the phone.
  • Community Money Advice is run out of local churches and they give you help all through the process of getting out of debt
  • Christians Against Poverty is a national, free debt advice service that runs through local churches.
  • National Debtline is a website offering a guide to dealing with debt – and has some useful sample letters for writing to creditors.
  • PayPlan is a free debt management company funded by the credit industry, which makes repayment arrangements.
  • Shelter is a great resource if you’re having problems with your rent or mortgage. They can help stop you being turfed out of your home, even if you’re about to go to court.
  • AdviceUK – the largest support network for free, independent advice centres in the UK.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to debt is to talk about it. Don’t ignore it or put it off – that’ll only make you more and more anxious as time goes on.

  1. Talk to your credit card, loan, and mortgage provider to ask for interest freezes or repayment holidays
  2. If you’re concerned that you can’t pay your energy bill, contact your provider – there are hardship funds available for some
  3. Shift your debts to a more affordable option (such as moving an expensive overdraft to an interest-free credit card.
  4. Call one of the debt advice charities above
  5. Remember that no debt is insurmountable. It might take time, but you CAN become debt-free.

You can also connect with other people in your position – and ask questions – on our new financial support messageboard here.

Ways to Make Money

Make Money during the coronavirus crisis

Finding new ways to make money can help reduce your financial stress and prepare you for changes to your income caused by business closures.

We’ve got a really comprehensive guide about innovative ways to make money here.

The good news is there are some ways to earn even small amounts of cash pretty quickly. This could help top up your immediate cashflow problems – or at least create an emergency buffer for you.

Sell Your Stuff

You’d be surprised at what people will pay money for. At a time when everyone’s watching what they spend, a surge in second-hand purchase is highly likely. Make the most of this – and use it as an opportunity to tidy your house – by selling items you don’t want or need anymore.

Get started with these articles:

And remember to sign up to our self-isolation email course for more tips to make money fast!

Call the Student Loans Company

If you’ve ever had a loan from the Student Loans Company, they could owe you money.

Even if you don’t think they do owe you anything, it’s well worth giving them a call. You could be surprised – and receive a refund of hundreds of pounds!

You could be owed money from all sorts of places, too. Check out these organisations that could owe you cash!

Find a New Job

It might feel very doom-and-gloom at the moment – but in fact, some companies are now crying out for more staff in light of the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve got to adapt – and fast – to keep up with changing demand.

Delivery Drivers and Riders

If you’ve got a car or a bicycle, put it to use! The hospitality industry has been devastated by recent announcements – but many restaurants and cafes want to stay open in some way or another.

Some of these businesses will go via an official delivery service, like Deliveroo or Just Eat – but as these companies take a hefty 30% commission, many independent restaurants will be looking for their own self-employed drivers direct.

Get in touch with your local restaurants and cafes to see if they need delivery drivers. Register as a self-employed driver with HMRC, too – this means you can claim your fuel and some running costs off your tax bill.

You could also look for employment as a courier with companies like My Hermes or Yodel – as more people turn to online shopping, demand for delivery couriers is likely to increase.


As over-70s are encouraged to self-isolate, more people are going to need assistance.

Current care staff are acutely aware that they may need to self-isolate, too. Working with vulnerable people means that they can’t risk even having a suspicion they may have the virus, in case they pass it on. This means care homes and in-home care services will be in dire need of extra staff to cover sick leave.

Care assistants don’t always need special qualifications. You’ll get training when you start the job, such as lifting and handling, and personal hygiene care.

Care homes will need additional care staff to provide around-the-clock support to their residents. Check your local care homes and agencies to find vacancies.

Those who live independently may need extra help, too. They can’t get outside to go shopping, or may struggle to cook meals, clean their home, or keep personal hygiene up-to-scratch. Home visits to help older people stay healthy and happy in their homes during self-isolation will become really important in the weeks to come.

Supermarkets and Retail Logistics

Morrisons have just announced the creation of 3000 new jobs to keep up with delivery demand, and Amazon will hire an extra 100,000 people worldwide – including at least 10,000 in the UK, over the coming weeks, too. (Click here to view current Amazon vacancies). Tesco have added several thousand temporary vacancies from 20th March 2020, too.

Some retail industries will suffer in this current climate – but others, like grocery shops and delivery services (such as online catalogues like Very), could expand as people start to shop online more.

Look on retailer websites for their job vacancy pages, and also check out your local job sites to find potential jobs, too.

Make a Small Extra Income Online

You might not be worrying about your finances quite yet – or perhaps you need to shore up your long-term income. These options offer small ways to boost your income over a longer period of time.

There are lots of ways to earn money online. Check out this article for tips about creating an online income.

If that’s not enough, check out this comprehensive article about ways to make money in times of the coronavirus crisis.

Keep an eye out in the next week for more articles about making a passive income, creating online courses, and earning money from YouTube!

The COVID-19 Guide: Ways to Save Money

Save Money - the coronavirus guide

Cutting your expenses is one more way to avoid financial worries during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve got so many articles to help you save money they won’t all fit in this COVID-19 guide! Here are just a few – and you can click here to browse the rest.

Use your pantry ingredients for creative recipes

Forget stockpiling and panic buying – you’ve probably already got tons of ingredients in the pantry that’ll make some great recipes!

You can also get free food wherever you live – click here to find out how.

Reduce heating bills

Working from home or self-isolating means you – and your household – will be using more heating and electricity.

Simple things, like switching appliances off at the wall, all quickly add up to cut your bill costs. Check out these articles for more tips, too:

Cancel unwanted subscriptions

Do you have a gym subscription you never use? Perhaps you’re still subscribed to a streaming service you’ve upgraded with a different platform.

Go through your bank, credit card, and PayPal statements to discover recurring payments. Take a long, hard look: do you really need that service? Or could you switch to save money?

If you’re a Sky Sports customer, you can pause your subscription at the moment, to make up for the fact many major sporting event have been postponed or cancelled.

It could also be a good time to check your broadband costs – if you’re not getting a good deal, and you’re out of a fixed contract term, switching could save you hundreds of pounds!

Exercise for free

We’re encouraged to distance ourselves from others – but that doesn’t mean shutting ourselves indoors (unless you’re in quarantine because you’re sick).

Exercise is great for mental health and can help keep your immune system strong. Fresh air and open spaces can massively improve your mood! You’re allowed to go out once a day for exercise, as long as you respect social distancing and remain 2m away from others. Parks are open, but playgrounds and green gyms will be closed or cordoned off. You can go out on your own, or with members of your household – but you can’t meet friends or family to exercise together if you’re not living together.

Even if you’re stuck indoors in quarantine or self-isolation, there are plenty of ways to get moving! Check out our article on the best free indoor exercise videos for inspiration.

Find Creative Ways to Support Each Other

Saving money doesn’t just have to involve you. In times like this, communities and neighbours are pulling together to support each other – and that includes activities that could save everyone money, too.

For example, if you and your friend both have to work from home – but aren’t in self-isolation – consider sharing childcare. This will let each of you focus on work in set hours, but not have to worry about finding extra cash for unplanned childcare. Of course, this is only suitable for those who are working from home and NOT self-isolating – but could save you each hundreds of pounds in childcare costs over the coming months.

Ask your questions on our messageboard

There’s so much going on with finances, jobs, business ownership and general life right now that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

If you’ve got questions about coping in lockdown, how to manage your employer’s demands, or getting refunds, our new MoneyMagpie Messageboard can help!

Post your questions and get stuck in with other conversations to be in with the chance of winning a £25 Amazon voucher each week. You’ll get to meet other Magpies and have your questions answered by the MoneyMagpie team, finance experts, and other people in your shoes. Visit the new forum here.


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2 years ago

Some great info – was unaware about the National Trust.

2 years ago

Very balanced and sensible advice.

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