Can I be furloughed or get sick pay if my area goes back into lockdown like Leicester?

WHILE most of the UK is looking forward to pubs and restaurants reopening on Saturday, Leceister has gone back into lockdown.

All non-essential shops have been ordered to close again and businesses hoping to welcome back customers this weekend have been told to stay shut for another two weeks.

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Schools, which have recently welcomed back some pupils, will also have to close again from Thursday.

Rates of infection in the city are now three times that of the town with the next highest rate.

The shocking numbers mean that the city accounts for 10 per cent of all coronavirus cases in the UK.

Once again, many peoples' jobs have been put at risk as companies struggling to make it through a period of no sales – and today, Boris Johnson warned that there will be more lockdowns to come.

How does the furlough scheme work?

ANY UK organisation with employees can apply to furlough their workers, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.

It’s up to your place of work to apply to the scheme, meaning you won’t need to contact the government yourself.

To access the scheme, your employer must comply with the following:

  • Designate employees who cannot do their jobs due to the coronavirus measures put in place by the government
  • Notify those employees of their new “furloughed” status
  • Submit information to HMRC about furloughed employees to set up a system for reimbursement and about existing systems that will facilitate payments

To be furloughed, you must have been on a payroll on March 19.

Workers can ask previous employers to rehire and furlough them, even if they left for another job, but firms don’t have to do this.

The furlough scheme did, however, close to new applicants on June 10.

But if you were furloughed between March 1 and June 30 you can be re-furloughed from July 1 until the end of October.

And with the furlough scheme being wound down for workers and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for shielding employees being scrappedd from August, it's got many worried about their finances.

Here, we take you through your employee rights if your local area goes into lockdown.

Can I be furloughed if my work place is closed during a local lockdown?

The Chancellor closed the furlough scheme to new employees on June 10 – only parents returning from maternity or paternity leave can be enrolled on it.

But if you've already been furloughed between March 1 and June 30 your employer can put you back on the system.

Under the scheme you'll receive 80 per cent of your salary – up to £2,500 a month – from the government.

What support can I get once my sick pay payments stop?

FOR those who are worried about returning to work in August, there are still options for you once your SSP is stopped.

  • Speak to your employer – The government has said those who are concerned should speak to their employers about how they're feeling to try and come to an agreement. Matt Hancock said he expect employers to "do the right thing".
  • Universal credit – You can apply for Universal Credit, which you're now able to do online.
  • Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussel Trust website.
  • If you're renting, speak to your landlord – A ban on evictions has been extended until 23 August in England & Wales, so your landlord can't kick you out of your home if you're struggling. However, you have to set up an affordable repayment plan with your landlord, which takes your circumstances into account. It's best to pay as much as you can, when you can, to stop arrears building up.
  • If you're paying a mortgage, ask your bank for a three month mortgage holiday – The payment freeze has been pushed until October 31 this year. We've created a guide of how to apply for one here.
  • Payment holidays – You can get a three month payment holiday on your loans and credit cards, and you have until 9 July 2020 to request one. Here's how to apply for one. 

Your employer can choose to top this up to 100 per cent but they don't have to.

But for those who haven't already been put on the furlough scheme, your employer won't be able to add you to it.

Can I get sick pay if I have to shield if my local area goes into lockdown?

Employers were told to start paying SSP to workers who had been told to shield by the government from April 16.

Letters were sent to 2.2million Brits who suffered from pre-exisiting conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, that puts them at great risk if they contract the virus.

The weekly rate for SSP is £95.85 for up to 28 weeks.

But from August 1, shielding Brits have been told that they will be able to return to work  – meaning they will no longer be eligible for SSP on the basis that they're shielding.

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to The Sun that this will remain the case, even if your local area goes into lockdown.

If you were on the government's shielding list and your work stays open during a local lockdown, you may be able to take some of your statutory holiday days to get you through this period.

It also means that you must be paid in full for this time.

Can I get sick pay if I have to self-isolate?

The DWP has said people can still receive statutory sick pay if they’re self-isolating because of symptoms and the other usual criteria.

People will also still have their priority for supermarket delivery slots, can still access help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments.

Employers are also able to claim a refund of up to two weeks of statutory sick pay if workers have to self-isolate.

If you're told by NHS Test and Trace that you have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19 then you must stay at home for 14 days.

If you test positive for the virus, you'll need to self-isolate for at least seven days from when your symptoms started – even if it means you're self-isolating for longer than two weeks.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:

  • Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
  • Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
  • Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your existing ones aren't enough to cover your rent.
  • Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

What other financial help is there?

At the start of the pandemic lockdown, local councils were able to offer small businesses in their authorities a one-off grant of £10,000 to get them through lockdown.

But businesses can't get it a second time if they're forced to close down again due to another lockdown.

The Mayor of Leicester is calling on the government to offer more financial support for local areas that are affected by this.

Sir Peter Soulsby said today: "I'm very, very concerned obviously about the impact on the well-being of the city in general and the health of the people in the city, but also about the economy of the city.

"One of the things we've been stressing to the government over recent times is that if Leicester is to be locked down and its economy put in limbo for a little longer, we will need support that was given earlier in the pandemic, through the UK, restores here in Leicester.

If you're struggling to pay bills, you maybe able to get help through Universal Credit.

Some charities are also offering struggling households one-off grants, such as Turn2Us.

You can also ask your bank for a three month mortgage holiday, or breathing space from your credit card or loan provider if you can't make the repayments.

Another alternative to consider is applying for one of the 70,000 new jobs that have been created because of the impact of COVID-19.

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