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Budget 2020: Sick pay and benefits extended to help those hit by coronavirus

A new package of measures to help those who lose out on earnings due to coronavirus was unveiled by the Chancellor today.

Delivering the Government's Budget in the House of Commons, Rishi Sunak said that statutory sick pay will be available for employees "who are advised to self-isolate" due to coronavirus even if they have not displayed symptoms, likely from next week.

He also said that people will soon be able to get sick notes by contacting the NHS 111 service, rather than going to their GP. This change will be implemented as soon as possible.

For those not eligible for statutory sick pay, such as the self-employed or anyone working in the gig economy, he said that other "help" will be available.

What other measures were announced?

The Chancellor also announced another series of changes to benefits to combat the effect of coronavirus:

  • The contribution-based employment and support allowance (ESA) benefit will become available to claim from the first day of sickness rather than the eighth. This is for people directly affected by coronavirus or self-isolating according to Government advice.

    You're typically eligible for contribution-based ESA if you're self-employed or employed but you're unable to work, and have at least two years of national insurance contributions.

  • The 'minimum income floor' for the universal credit benefit will be removed. The Government expects to roll out this change, and that to ESA, by next week.

    If you've been running your business for a year or longer when you claim universal credit, the Government works out your payment based on the minimum income floor.

    If you earn more than the minimum income floor you get less universal credit, while if you earn less than the minimum income floor you currently don't get any extra money to make up the difference.

    Removing the minimum income floor means that some claimants will get extra money to make up for lost earnings, if they decrease due to the coronavirus.

  • People will be able to claim universal credit and access advance payments where they are directly affected by coronavirus (or self-isolating), without the current requirement to attend a Jobcentre. This is because everything will be available online or on the phone.

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