Your UK Unemployment Benefit Questions Answered

by Patrick Wharton

It is a particularly stressful time for many people across the world. With so many people sick from coronavirus or forced into quarantine, and businesses and schools shut down, many out there are left asking themselves, how can I make ends meet?

The U.K. has taken active steps to help ease the COVID-19 pandemic situation and make citizens feel more comfortable. If you are feeling confused, nervous or anxious in the current situation, you are not alone. Below you will find a helpful guide to navigate you through unemployment benefits so you can get the support you need during this challenging time.

How do I know if I am eligible for unemployment or other benefits?

Much of our world has been turned upside down as countries scramble to isolate populations by closing businesses, schools, and forbidding public gatherings. You may claim universal credit or employment and support allowance if you have a limited capacity to work. If any of the following reasons apply to you, then you are eligible:

● You are infected or contaminated with coronavirus

● You are in isolation

● If you are caring for a child or qualifying young person who is a member of the person’s household

● You lost your job

● You are self-employed and can’t get work

● You can’t work because your workplace has closed

This covers a vast majority of people in the U.K., so you should not feel alone. Receiving help from the government right now is crucial for many, and there should be no stigma or ill-will attached to asking for assistance. You can apply for benefits  online.

Am I entitled to unemployment as a gig worker or freelancer?

If you are working in the gig economy or currently on a zero-hours contract, you may be entitled Statutory Sick Pay. To be eligible, you will need one of the following requirements:

● Be considered as an employee and have done some work for your employer

● Earn an average of at least £118 per week

● Have been ill for at least four days in a row (including non-working days)

If you have coronavirus or are self-isolating, these same requirements apply to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay.

What is Jobseeker’s Allowance?

In the past, job seekers who were actively looking for a position could meet with a government representative and update them on their progress. After signing and confirming each week that you are on the job hunt, the government would provide an allowance to keep you afloat during your search.

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, however, all jobseeker check-ins are canceled. If you had an appointment, you should consider yourself excused from coming in and signing until further notice.

Universal Credit has now replaced Jobseeker’s Allowance. Universal Credit is a payment for individuals over eighteen but under the State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work. Universal payment provides support for housing, childcare, and more.

What if I can’t pay my rent?

Many tenants and landlords are finding themselves in a difficult situation, unable to receive money, or make a mortgage or rental payments. The first step is to speak to your landlord and try to find a situation that is more comfortable for you both.

If you are handed an eviction notice on or after March 26, 2020, the notice must be increased to three months for assured, protected, secure, flexible, demoted, and introductory tenancy types.

Am I entitled to housing benefits?

If you are unable to pay your rent, you can apply for a Housing Benefit. To be eligible, you need to meet the following requirements:

● You and your partner are of pension age

● You are of working age and living in Temporary Accommodation provided under the Homeless Persons Act

● You are of working age and living in Supported Accommodation

● You are entitled to the Severe Disability Premium

Don’t fall into one of those categories? That’s ok, you then should claim Universal Credit for help with your rent. If the Housing Benefit or if Universal Credit doesn't provide what you need to cover all your rent, don’t fret. You can still make a claim for a discretionary housing payment (also known as DHP). DHP provides extra money from your local council to help pay your rent.

Can I get Child Benefit?

As we all struggle to endure the coronavirus pandemic, many are wondering if they are eligible for Child Benefit payments. Child Benefit can be claimed by anyone responsible for bringing up a child who is under the age of sixteen. This may extend to children under 20 if they stay in approved education or training. It is important to note that only one person can get Child Benefit for a child.

Currently, Child Benefit provides £20.70 for an eldest or only child, and an additional £13.70 per additional child. For those receiving other benefits, like Income Support, you may be able to get this payment weekly.

You can claim Child Benefit once you have registered the birth of your child or as soon as they come to live with you. You can apply online or via phone.

Remember, staying healthy is the priority

The most important thing you can do for your family and yourself is to stay healthy. Currently, in the U.K., most people are required to stay home. You can leave your home for a few reasons, including to exercise, shop for necessities, for medical needs, or to travel to and from work (for those who are required).

Familiarize yourself with the benefits available to you to ensure you get through this difficult experience unscathed. The NHS has many resources online to help guide you through understanding any rights, restrictions, and benefits. Above all, stay healthy!

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