COVID-19 - Advice

Wherever you work, the best approach is to come together with your colleagues and make a plan to work together in your interest (see: Take Action). In addition to this, there are different ways that you can seek support.

Note: the information below is correct as of 22/03 (this page will be updated with any changes)

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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The UK Government have announced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. They intend for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020, but have said that they will extend the Scheme if necessary.

This Scheme enables a PAYE registered employer who cannot cover staff costs due to the Coronavirus to claim 80% of staff costs.

If your employer intends to access this Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to furlough you, they should discuss what this will mean in practice for you.

Don't wait for your employer to get in touch with you, organise with your colleagues to make sure your workplace is seeking all the support it can to make sure you get paid - see Take Action

I am to be ‘furloughed’. What does this mean?

You are classified as a furloughed worker IF you meet the following 3 conditions:

• You are enrolled for PAYE

• You are told that you will be kept on your employer’s payroll

• but you will not be undertaking any work for your employer.

You cannot undertake work for your employer whilst you are furloughed.

This furlough process allows your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

I have been furloughed. Am I still employed?

You are still employed even though you have been furloughed. Your employer could fund the 20% difference between the furlough payment and your salary, but they are not required to. If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may qualify for support though the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

I am a zero hours worker. What does this Scheme mean for me?

If you are on a zero hours contract; you meet the definition of ‘employee’ and you are earning more than an average of £118 per week under that contract (known as the Lower Earnings Limit) then you will be on the PAYE system.

The Scheme covers everybody who is on the PAYE system through a company.

Remember: there is a very important distinction between an employee and someone who is considered self-employed. Employers do not need to pay self-employed workers through PAYE – so someone who is classed as self-employed will not be eligible for this Scheme.

There is no guidance available regarding the mechanism for payroll averaging in relation to zero hours contracts however, there is a well-established mechanism for calculating holiday accrual and pay for those working irregular patterns such as zero hours employees and we are recommending that you insist that your employer use this method. Your employer should calculate your average pay by reference to your average salary earned since working for them – up to a maximum of the last 52 weeks.

How will I know I am on the PAYE System?

If you are on the PAYE system you will have a tax code. If you are given a PAYE tax code, it will be shown on your pay slip. Employers usually have to pay employees through PAYE if the employee earns £118 or more a week (£512 a month or £6136 a year). Employers do not need to pay self-employed workers through PAYE.

How do I know I’m an employee?

This is a complex area of the law but as a general rule, you are:

• an employee if you work for someone and do not have any of the risks associated with running a business

• self-employed if you run your own business and are responsible for its success or failure Employees are paid on a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) basis, which means tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are usually automatically deducted.

But 80% of my salary is not enough to live on… If you have been furloughed you might find that the 20% reduction in your salary means that your earnings meet the eligibility threshold for Universal Credit or you may find that you qualify for other benefits.

You need to make a claim for this.

From 6 April the Government are increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for 1 year. Both will increase by £20 per week (on top of planned annual uplifts). This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.

I just started working for my employer – will I be eligible for salary payments if I am furloughed?

Yes, you will be eligible, as long as you are part of the PAYE system. There is no qualifying employment period.

Will I qualify for Occupational or Statutory Sick Pay if I contract Coronavirus OR am required to Self-isolate?

If you are an employee, you might qualify for occupational sick pay. You should check with your employer, asking for details of their occupational sick pay scheme (if they have one).

To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you must:

• be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer

• earn an average of at least £118 per week You will not qualify if you:

• have received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks)

• are getting Statutory Maternity Pay

The Government have amended rules for payment of SSP – it will be paid from day one of your Coronavirus related absence – whether this is because you are a confirmed case of the virus or you have been told to self-isolate.

Self-Employed/GIG Economy Worker

I am self-employed/I am a ‘gig worker – can I claim SSP?

If you are self-employed and you are sick or have to self-isolate, you will be eligible to access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to SSP for employees.

I am not on the PAYE System/I am a ‘gig economy worker’ – but I have no work due to the impact of the Coronavirus. Do I qualify for 80% of my salary?

No. Unfortunately you do not. We are fighting for extension of coverage to you. Until then: If you earn less than the Lower Earnings Limit you may already be claiming Universal Credit. You should notify the DWP of the change in your circumstances, telling them that it is due to the impact of the Coronavirus.

If you are a freelancer or classified as self-employed you will be able to claim Universal Credit – as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.

From 6th April, the Government have relaxed the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor to help you to follow guidance on self-isolation and social distancing. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and is intended to last for the duration of the outbreak.

New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate ‘gainful self-employment’.

How much Universal Credit might I get?

How much you receive (called the UC Standard Allowance) depends on whether you are single or claiming as a couple. It also depends on your age. There is one standard allowance for your household:

• Single claimant aged under 25: £251.77 per month

• Single claimant aged 25 or over: £317.82 per month

• Joint claimants both aged under 25: £395.20 per month

• Joint claimants either aged 25 or over: £498.89 per month

Please note: As from 6 April the Government are increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for 1 year. Both will increase by £20 per week (on top of planned annual uplifts).

This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.

However, you might also be eligible for 'additional elements' such as childcare or housing costs. You can also obtain advice from your local Welfare Rights Officer - they can be found working for your Local Authority or perhaps a Housing Association. The Citizens Advice Bureau is also a good source of information - they have people dedicated to assisting with UC claims:

Universal Credit is means tested and paid based on earnings – this means that it is calculated at the same rate regardless of whether you are a worker, self-employed or an employee.

Lay-offs and Short-Time Working Payment

Another option if you have your hours cut or are laid-off due to closure of your venue is to apply for lay-off and short-time working payment. You are entitled to guarantee pay of £29 per day for 5 days (up to £145). We know it’s not a lot but could be a vital addition to many.

Here is a template letter to request it: (wording copied below)



I am writing to you in order to request my guarantee payment from you in line with my statutory rights.

As you are aware I have been laid off/on short-time working (DELETE AS APPROPRIATE) on [INSERT DATES] despite being available for work, therefore I am requesting to be paid for the aforementioned days.

Yours sincerely,

For more information on Lay-off and short-time working payment see:

Holiday/Unpaid Leave

We are aware that many workers are being asked to take holiday or unpaid leave when unable to attend work. We understand that some workers may wish to take holiday pay, but we strongly disagree that workers should be expected to use their holiday pay to get by during this crisis.

It is important to organise with you colleagues to make sure you employer is getting all the support they can to pay you your wages.

(see: Take Action, Resources)


Nothing on our site or provided in any response to an individual enquiry, constitutes legal advice or is intended to give rise to a legal relationship between BetterThanZero/the STUC and any individual. Specialist legal or other advice should always be sought and taken in relation to your specific circumstances. The contents of our site/email responses are intended for general information purposes only and you should not rely on them as definitive in relation to your situation.