Welfare Benefits Update

The current pandemic has led to working people facing severe hardship and the risk of job loss. As businesses have been forced to close or reduce working hours for their employees, help from the state has never been more important. The government has therefore announced extensions to their furlough scheme, as our welfare benefits expert, Phil Runciman, explains below:

Job Retention Scheme

This scheme has now been extended until 31 March 2021, meaning the planned Job Support Scheme will not currently be implemented. The scheme will see employees receive 80% of their usual salary for any hours not worked until January 2021. The scheme is capped at £2,500 per month and is proportional to the hours not worked.

Employers can claim for anyone employed and on their PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020. They will also be able to re-employ, and claim for, any staff recently made redundant as long as they were on the payroll on 23 September 2020.

SEISS (self-employed)

The government has also extended the help available for the self-employed from November 2020 to April 2021.

These grants will cover a 3-month period and will be paid in 2 instalments. The grant will be calculated at 80% of the average trading profits for a 3-month period with a maximum grant of £7,500.

Details for the 4th grant have not yet been confirmed.

Other changes include:

  • Suspension of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed people claiming Universal Credit has been extended until 30 April 2021. The MIF affects the amount of Universal Credit a self-employed person can be paid regardless of their income.
  • A £170m COVID Winter Grant Scheme has been approved. The scheme will be run by local councils and will help to support children, families and vulnerable people over winter. Holiday activities and food programmes will be extended to cover Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021. The funding will be ring-fenced, with at least 80% earmarked to support with food and bills until the end of March 2021. Healthy Start payments will increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021.
  • The number of waiting days that are required to be served for a new claim to Employment & Support Allowance has been waived until 12 May 2021.
  • Job centres will remain open during November lockdown for claimants that need extra support and are unable to interact on the phone or digitally.
  • Face to face medical assessments for Personal Independence Payment, Employment & Support Allowance and Universal Credit remain suspended and will continue to be conducted by telephone. Sanctions are still applicable to anyone failing to attend a telephone assessment.

Universal Credit claimants getting paid twice in one month

From 16 November 2020, a new law affecting the way monthly earnings are treated for Universal Credit calculations will come into force. This amends regulation 61 of the UC regulations 2013.

Currently, when a claimant is paid twice in one assessment period, usually due to being paid early by their employer, both payments are taken into account. This can lead to Universal Credit being closed as their income exceeds their entitlement. The new law will allow the DWP to reallocate one of the payments to the following assessment period.

The new law implements the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Secretary of State v Johnson & others

Please contact Phil at philipr@nestor.co.uk or your usual adviser for more information.