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20 March 2020 20:33

Universal Credit Jared O'Mara Sheffield Hallam

Universal credit, housing benefit and working tax credit to be hiked in £7bn coronavirus package

Then the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, unveiled an extraordinary bailout for workers that will effectively "freeze" millions of people's jobs during the coronavirus crisis. It will pay 80% of workers' wages up to a cap of £2,500 a month - though zero-hour workers could lose out and the self-employed are excluded. (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images) And the Federation of Small Businesses slammed the scheme for taking a month to implement and not covering the self-employed. Government grants will pay firms up to 80% of each worker's wage, up to a cap of £2,500 a month (close to the median salary), if their income is hit by the coronavirus. The "coronavirus job retention scheme" has been set up to stop firms laying off workers they can't afford to keep.

"Any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or non-profit, will be eligible for the scheme," Chancellor Rishi Sunak said. Chancellor Rishi Sunak merely said firms can pay the difference "if they choose to". Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that it represented a direct cash injection of more than £30 billion - equivalent to 1.5% of GDP - and firms wouldn't have to pay up until the end of the financial year. He also announced the new £5m-per-firm business interruption loan scheme - announced at last week's Budget to deal with coronavirus - will be interest-free for 12 months. The coronavirus job retention scheme (above) should be open to workers on zero-hour contracts - but it raises questions over how their "wage" is calculated.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the employee retention scheme will cover "everybody who is on the PAYE system through a company." Self-employed people will not be eligible for the coronavirus job retention scheme. Instead self-employed people will need to claim Universal Credit. Those claiming Universal Credit for the first time will need to wait five weeks for their first payment, and must borrow an advance repaid from future benefits over 12 months if they want to bridge the gap. To compensate for this, the government is making Universal Credit more generous for self-employed people in two ways. First, the Minimum Income Floor - which ensures self-employed people can never get more benefits than if they were on the minimum wage - will be suspended.

This means self-employed people with zero income can claim Universal Credit in the same way as someone who's unemployed. This will mean the "standard allowance" for a single person will, from next month, be almost exactly the same as the £94.25-a-week rate of Statutory Sick Pay. Put together, these two measures basically mean self-employed people can claim sick pay. Lastly, the Chancellor said the next self-assessment tax payments will be deferred to January 2021 to further support the self-employed. The "standard allowance" of Universal Credit - before any additions for children, housing costs and the like - will be raised by £1,040 a year (£20 a week) for the next 12 months. (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto) Working Tax Credit will also be raised by £1,040 a year (£20 a week), the same rate as Universal Credit.

As a minimum, you can claim Statutory Sick Pay of £94.25 per week from the first day you have to either self-isolate or go off sick. This is paid by your company, but the first two weeks you are off work can be refunded to your firm by the government under changes announced in recent days. But statutory sick pay does not apply to people who earn less than £118 per week or the self-employed, who are not eligible. The Government is pumping almost £7 billion into the welfare system to protect people's incomes during the coronavirus pandemic, the Chancellor has announced. Rishi Sunak said the Universal Credit standard allowance will be increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the measures 'will benefit over four million of our most vulnerable households' (Picture: BBC News) Self-employed workers will be able to access Universal Credit payments in full, at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay eligible to employees. The Government is pledging nearly £1 billion through increasing housing benefit and Universal Credit so the local housing allowance covers at least 30 percent of market rents. Mr Sunak said: 'The actions I have taken today represent an unprecedented economic intervention to support the jobs and incomes of the British people. 'We are already hearing from people who are rapidly losing work and we think the Government may need to further increase Housing Benefit to cover average rents as well as introduce other measures to provide crucial security to these workers during this crisis.' He tweeted: 'This is a step in the right direction and will provide relief for many workers across the country, but it still does not go far enough for the self-employed, those in the gig economy and those on benefits. 'We need to see the introduction of a Universal Basic Income which will provide financial security for everybody and allow people to follow public health advice free from the fear of losing their livelihoods.' Universal Credit is to be increased by £1,000 a year as the government announced 'unprecedented' emergency economic measures to deal with coronavirus. In a £7bn welfare support package, working tax credits and housing benefit will also be increased and claimant rules relaxed for the self-employed. Following criticism that the Chancellor's £350bn bail-out earlier this week was focused on businesses but not on workers, he said the latest measures would help 'four million of the most vulnerable households'. Alongside the rise in benefits payments, Rishi Sunak said the minimum income floor for the self employed would be scrapped so that they can claim Universal Credit. ''I'm strengthening the safety net for self-employed people too by suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impact of coronavirus," he said. ''That means that self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees." Universal Credit 'standard allowance' - £323.22 a month for single people and £507.37 a month for couples - will be raised by £1,000 for the next 12 months, with working tax credits increased by the same amount. The welfare package comes alongside a new programme called the 'Covid Job Retention Scheme' which will see the government pay 80pc of retained workers' wages up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. "I have a responsibility to make sure that we protect, as far as possible, people's jobs and incomes," said the Chancellor. "Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the Government is going to step in and help pay people's wages. "We're setting up a new coronavirus job retention scheme. Freelancers and the self-employed have just been granted equal sick pay rights in a huge package announced by the Government to support workers through the coronavirus crisis. Workers without the safety net of an employer will be receive benefits worth the same amount as statutory sick pay (£94.25 a week) should they contract the virus. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced they could defer payments for their self-assessment tax return until January 2021. Previously, the self-employed taking time off for illness were only entitled to the standard rate of employment and support allowance (ESA) and/or Universal Credit. However the Government has said it is raising the standard allowance for Universal Credit by £1,000 a year to support people throughout the pandemic. Justin Madders, a Labour MP and shadow employment rights minister, said that those having to take time off work do not need financial support in a few weeks.