Last updated: 7 January 2021

Latest updates and useful links 


Advice for employees and self-employed (work & pay) 

You can find information about work and pay benefits for employees and self-employed people by visiting our main Coronavirus money and benefits page.


Advice for employees and self-employed people (benefits) 

To make sure people in work can take the necessary time off to stay at home if they are suffering from coronavirus or to prevent its spread, changes have been made to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and how Universal Credit (UC) supports self-employed claimants.

  • People who are unable to work due to coronavirus and are eligible for SSP will receive it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness. The DWP intends to legislate so this measure applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
  • SSP will be payable to people who are staying at home on Government advice, not just those who are infected, this measure applies from 13 March. Employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.
  • If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from NHS 111 online instead of having to get a Fit Note from their doctor. This is currently under development and will be made available soon.
  • People claiming Universal Credit who work who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus, will need to report this in the usual way via their online journal. If this means they are working fewer hours, the amount of Universal Credit they receive will adjust as their earnings change.
  • Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.

Advice for people making new claims for benefit 

If you have lost your job or your income has reduced as a result of the Coronavirus you may be entitled to Universal Credit or New Style Jobseekers Allowance.

You can check your benefit entitlement at www.turn2us.org.uk/

Universal Credit

If you’re unemployed or on a low income you could be eligible for Universal Credit, a means-tested benefit to help with your basic living costs.

You may be able to get Universal Credit if:

  • You’re on a low income or out of work
  • You’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
  • You’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)
  • You and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
  • You live in the UK

More information on Universal Credit

WARNING: If you are receiving other means-tested benefits, such as working tax credits you need to be aware that these payments will stop when you make a claim for Universal Credit and you will not be able to return to these benefits in the future.

Universal Credit and the Benefit Cap

Although there have not been any changes to the Benefit Cap if you are new to claiming benefits because you have lost your job or had a reduction in your hours you may be affected by the cap.

If your working hours have reduced and your monthly earnings have fallen below £604.59 or you have lost your job through no fault of your own you may now be subject to the Benefit Cap unless you are protected by the 'grace period' (if you have been in work continuously for the past 12 months and monthly earnings have been £569.23 for the months up to April 2020 and £604.59 for months after April 2020 you will not be affected by the Benefit Cap for 39 weeks).

For more information on the Benefit Cap.

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

If you’re unemployed or work less than 16 hours a week you may be able to get New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) to help you when you look for work. To claim you will also need to have paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the last two full tax years.

New Style JSA is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. If you qualify, you can get New Style JSA for up to six months.

If you qualify for both JSA and Universal Credit, the amount of JSA you receive will be taken into account as income for Universal Credit.

Your savings (or your partner’s savings and income) are not taken into account when claiming the New Style JSA. However, any earnings and any payment you are getting from a pension may affect the amount you receive.

You may be eligible for Universal Credit (UC) if you (and your partner) don't have savings of more than £16,000. The JSA will be classed as income when determining how much UC you are eligible to receive and will reduce your UC payment by the same amount. If you have a partner their income will also be taken into account when working out your UC.

More information on New Style Jobseekers Allowance

New Style Employment and Support Allowance

If you are unable to work due to illness or you have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work you may be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), depending on your National Insurance record.

New style ESA can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit.

You may be eligible for Universal Credit (UC) if you (and your partner) don't have savings of more than £16,000. The ESA will be classed as income when determining how much UC you are eligible to receive and will reduce your UC payment by the same amount. If you have a partner their income will also be taken into account when working out your UC.

You may be eligible for New Style ESA if:

  • You have been working (either as an employee or self-employed) within the last two to three years and have paid, or been credited with, enough National Insurance contributions
  • You are 16 or over, and under State Pension age
  • You are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), or your entitlement to SSP is coming to an end

You may also be able to apply for New Style ESA if you’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay and one of the following applies:

  • You or your child might have coronavirus or you’re recovering from it
  • You or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have coronavirus
  • You have been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
  • You have been advised to shield (this means you need to take extra precautions to reduce contact with others) because you’re at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus

The seven waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance for new claimants suffering from coronavirus or required to stay at home will not apply, so it will be payable from day one.

You can apply for New Style ESA online. If you can’t make an application online, you can apply by calling the Universal Credit helpline

Help with your Council Tax

Universal Credit and New Style JSA do not include Council Tax Support so you will need to make a separate claim. Council Tax Reduction can help you to pay your council tax costs if you are on a low income.

More information on Council Tax Support


Advice for people already receiving benefits 

  • Claimants who need to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a Fit Note.
  • Claimants will need to advise the DWP if they are staying at home or if they have been diagnosed with coronavirus to avoid being sanctioned. The DWP will then review their conditionality requirements to ensure they are reasonable.
  • Claimants who are staying at home will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness.
  • In April the DWP paused recovery of benefit overpayments for three months. From 6 July 2020 the DWP restarted recovery of benefit related overpayments and social fund loans. Anyone who is experiencing severe financial hardship can request deferral of repayments by contacting Debt Management on 0800 916 0647.
  • The DWP resumed third party deductions on 10 May 2020 for Universal Credit (UC) claimants who repay debts for rent, council tax or utility bills from their UC payments.
  • If you are paying back an overpayment of Housing Benefit, the recovery rate and your notifications will continue as normal. However, if you are experiencing financial difficulty you can request for deductions to be placed on hold for three months. Please email benefit.services@southampton.gov.uk with your invoice/benefit number and details of your request. (Those who currently make repayments through a Bank Standing Order, Bank Giro Credit should contact their bank to cancel their arrangement.)

Changes to jobcentre appointments 

Jobcentres remain open, and continue to support people who are not able to use phones and online, including homeless people. For further information visit Jobcentre guidance on new national Covid restrictions - GOV.UK


Face-to-face assessments 

The DWP temporarily suspended all face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits including Universal Credit from 16 March 2020. This temporary suspension, initially brought in for three months will remain in place following consideration of the latest public health guidance. This means anyone receiving disability benefits (PIP & ESA) will not be required to attend face-to-face assessments. This will also include new claims for PIP or ESA and health checks for Universal Credit. Find out more about changes to face-to-face assessments.


Help with Universal Credit claims 

Southampton Citizens Advice are able to provide telephone advice on 0808 27 87 863. There is also a national Citizens Advice service which includes BSL video calls.

You can also see guidance on how to make a claim.