Please read the following advice before contacting us
Given the current situation with Covid-19, our advice is changing day-to-day, dependent on policy changes. We will regularly update the key information below, which may solve your query without you needing to contact us.
We will try to answer any further queries if you complete the form below. Please understand that we are very busy and may not be able to offer you individual advice quickly, but will do our best.
You may also wish to go Money Saving Expert who have a lot of information updated daily.
Also, if you need urgent support with food, medicines, loneliness or isolation, or you are worried about a friend, neighbour or relative, you can try contacting H&F Community Aid Network. H&F CAN is the volunteer community aid network launched by Hammersmith & Fulham Council to support vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic. Freephone: 0800 1456095 (9am to 7pm) or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. If an employer tell you to take unpaid leave
If your employer asks you to take unpaid leave, because of child-care responsibilities or because they have no work, you need to check your employment rights. Most people with under 2 years of employment, do not have rights to challenge dismissal. Statutory notice period is one week. Given the current circumstances, the government is trying to support business to avoid this. You can Raise a Grievance with your employer. You can challenge if you feel you have been Discriminated Against.
If you are looking after your children, as they’re not at school, you can ask for Dependent/Parental leave– but this is not a statutory right.
Your employer should not ask you to work from home and not pay you your usual full wage/salary for this. If they do, you need to raise a grievance. However, please bear in mind, that if they dismiss you, if you’ve been there less than 2 years, you do not usually have rights to challenge this dismissal.
2. Job retention scheme
Your employer will let you know if you are going to be a “furloughed worker”. If this happens the government will pay your employer 80% of your earnings up to £2,500 per month. Your employer may choose to pay more. Until 30th June, you can’t carry out any work for your employer while on furlough. Whether you can work for anyone else will depend on the terms of your employment contract. From 1st July, you will be able to work for your employer on a part time basis. There is more information here.
3. If you are not being paid
If you are having to self-isolate because of the Covid-19 pandemic, or are taking leave for children, and you are not being paid, there are a couple of benefits to which you may be entitled.
i. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be paid from the 1st day of self-isolation due to emergency legislation. This is paid if your employer cannot pay you contractual sick pay or paid leave. This is paid at £95.85 per week.
After seven days of sickness or isolation, your employer may want confirmation of your condition. This is now available online through the NHS website .
ii. Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit which can be claimed to supplement income if you are unable to work or are low-paid and have savings of less than £16,000. It permanently replaces a number of other benefits, including Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. If you are already receiving any of these other benefits, take advice before claiming Universal Credit.
– If you live with a partner, they must claim Universal Credit jointly with you and their income and savings will be taken into account.
– You can claim Universal Credit alongside Statutory Sick Pay However, your Universal Credit payment will be reduced to reflect this.
– Universal Credit would support you to live and also help with any rent you cannot pay, although the rent element may be subject to a cap depending on the level of your rent and the size of your home.
– It will not help you with any mortgage payments. A loan scheme called SMI is available for this if needed, although a 3 month mortgage ‘holiday’ is being put in place.
– Universal Credit is paid after 5 weeks. However, you can ask for an advance payment if you need money urgently. This is an interest-free loan, that you have up to a year to pay back.
– For help with a Universal Credit application, see below
iii. New Style Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is a benefit paid to people who have lost their jobs and have made sufficient recent National Insurance contributions, whether from employment or self-employment. The £16,000 savings limit does not apply and is paid at a rate of £74.35 per week. If you have savings of less than £16,000, JSA can be claimed in conjunction with Universal Credit, but if it is paid the same amount will be deducted from your Universal Credit payments.
If you have not been invited to apply by HMRC you can apply directly here. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme. Applications for the first grant close on 13 July 2020. Applications for the second grant will open in August.
You are only eligible if you completed your 2018/9 tax return by 23rd April 2020.
5. Free school Meals and school closures
If you have children who would have been eligible for free school meals, the government has Guidance which asks schools to continue support to these children by delivering meals, making meals available for collection, or providing supermarket vouchers. You will need to ask your child’s local school what they are doing.
From 1st June 2020, schools have been encouraged by the government to open for all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6. Children of key workers and those who have social workers or SEN will continue to be able to attend school. Employees are entitled to time off to look after their children but your employer may not be obliged to pay you (depending on your contract).
6. Trouble Paying Rent and Mortgage
If you can’t afford to pay your rent we strongly recommend that you speak to your landlord and update them. You may be able to get some or all of your rent paid if you claim Universal Credit. You can find out how many bedrooms your household is entitled claim help with rent for at the Valuation Office website. If you are a private tenant and claiming Universal Credit (or Housing Benefit if you’re an existing claimant) the Government’s maximum possible contribution to your rental payments increased from 1st April. You can find the rates that will apply to you by entering your postcode here. All existing possession proceedings (evictions) have been put on hold until 23rd August 2020. Landlords can still start possession proceedings either because you have breached your tenancy agreement – for instance by not paying rent (Section 8) – or in some circumstances because they simply want your property back (Section 21) but they now have to give you three months’ notice before starting any court action.
If you can’t pay your mortgage, you need to talk to your mortgage provider and ask for a payment holiday. Lenders been advised that this should not have a negative impact on your credit rating. Lenders have also agreed to a temporary stop on any re-possession action.
7. Energy Companies
Energy companies are exploring ways to avoid cutting people off for non-payment, or if they cannot afford to top up their pre-payment meter. Disconnection of credit meters has been suspended but we recommend you speaking to your energy supplier as soon as possible as they may be able to offer you additional support and advice to avoid building up a longer term debt.
8. Rights to Refunds on Holidays/Services
With many companies having stopped their services to the public (such as cinemas, theatres etc), and most international travel is suspended, with government guidance suggesting only essentials and emergency travel, as you may be turned away from the country you intend to travel to. As such, companies should provide you with a refund – or if they will give you credit or the chance to rebook. This may change, therefore, we strongly advice you contact our Consumer Service who are specialists in this area 0808 223 1133.
How To Contact Us – if this hasn’t answered your question
Email (new issues)
The quickest way to contact us is by using this form. We aim to respond within a few working days. Please expect to receive a call from an unknown number.
Telephone (new issues)
If you can’t use the form, you can call us Mon-Friday 10am-4pm but we have limited capacity and you may have to hold for a long time
0300 330 1162
Only use this number if you have spoken to us before about the problem, or you want to cancel an appointment. You will need to leave a message and we will call you back Mon – Fri 10:00am – 4:00pm. We will only call you back if we confirm you have an open case with us.
020 7386 9068
Only use this number if it’s about debt or click here to email us about a debt issue.
020 3137 6295
Mon – Fri 10:00am – 4:00pm
Universal Credit Advice
Our Help to Claim service can support you in the early stages of your Universal Credit claim, from the application, through to your first payment.
You can contact an adviser through our free national Help to Claim phone service:
England: 0800 144 8 444
For online chat or to find out more about this service, please visit the dedicated Citizens Advice national service