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Coronavirus Financial FAQs

Where to find help on employment, mortgages, bills, benefits, travel & more

Coronavirus Financial FAQs

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live, and many have questions about what it means for finances, employment and more. Our main coronavirus guides have full info, and are constantly updated. But to help you quickly find what you need, we've brought together some of the most commonly asked questions here - along with links to the answers in our main guides.  

In this guide

Furlough Q&As

Under what's officially called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers can choose to put staff who can't work on 'furlough' (on hold) - and then the Government will cover 80% of your salary up to £2,500/mth. 

For full in-depth help on this, see our Coronavirus Employees Help guide. But here are some of the key questions answered:

  • Employers can choose to put staff who can't work on 'furlough' (on hold) - and then the Government will cover 80% of your salary up to £2,500/mth. This is officially called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

    Think of this like a job being put on standby. The idea is you go into sleeper mode during the crisis, and then when it's over, they can instantly restart things and get the economy running again at speed.

    It's up to employers to decide and define who is furloughed. It could be because you've no work to do (eg, you work in a closed restaurant), or as you have to be at home to look after children or you're self-isolating. For full info see Furlough scheme help.

  • Sadly, many employers are choosing not to furlough staff, and instead putting them on slashed hours, unpaid leave or making them redundant. There are many reasons for this, but in some cases, especially with smaller firms, it may simply be due to confusion or difficulty.

    To help, we've put together a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme cheat sheet - 11 simple furloughing need-to-knows for employees and small firms*. It's a simple way to be prepared if you're trying to persuade employers to furlough you. For more details on how the scheme works, see Furlough help.

  • It's not too late to be furloughed but there's a new deadline, which is fast approaching. You need to be furloughed by Wednesday 10 June (even if on maternity leave now) to be eligible for furlough from July. See furlough deadline for more info.

  • The amount the Government will pay will be 80% of your usual pre-tax monthly salary, as it was in the last pay period before 19 March 2020 (this will likely be February's pay). For full details, including how it's worked out if your pay varies from month to month, see Coronavirus Employees Help.

  • The help you can get depends on exactly how your contract is structured.

    If you're taxed through PAYE, you're considered an employee, which means your employer can choose to put you on furlough - that'll mean your job's put on hold and the Government will cover 80% of your salary up to £2,500/mth. If you're not on PAYE, you can't be furloughed, but may be eligible for the support being offered to the self-employed, or able to claim benefits.

    For full info, including how the Government will calculate your salary if you're put on furlough, see Zero-hours and gig worker help.

  • If you left a previous employer for a new job which fell through due to coronavirus (ie, you didn't start, were put on unpaid leave or made redundant), you can ask your old employer to rehire and furlough you, though for this to work you'll need to have been on the old employer's payroll on 28 February 2020. Full help in How do I get my old employer to rehire and furlough me?

  • If you're contributing to a pension via auto-enrolment and you've been furloughed, the furlough scheme is designed to cover the minimum, matching pension contributions made by your employer. See more in Furloughed pensions.

  • Those on fixed-term contracts can be furloughed, just like permanent members of staff can be. If you're on a fixed-term contract, your employer can extend it within the furlough period, without breaking rules, so your continued employment can be covered.

    However, if the contract's due to end soon, your employer needs to extend or renew it before it ends to keep you on the furlough scheme.

    Firms can also rehire to furlough contractors. See Fixed-term contractor help.

  • There's much confusion over this. Employers have discretion to choose to furlough someone via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but some are wrongly turning down requests thinking they're not allowed.

    Nothing in the guidance prevents furloughing in these cases, yet as employers are nervous, to help we got an official statement from the Treasury.

    "Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get statutory sick pay, but can be furloughed after this. Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.

    "Childcare: Yes, if because of coronavirus closing schools you are unable to work and at risk of redundancy, your employer can furlough you."

    For full details see Furlough scheme help.

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme opened to employers on 20 April, with the first payments scheduled to be made within six working days. This first payment will cover March's wages.

    If you've been paid as normal, this 'behind the scenes' transfer won't affect you, as it'll just be your employer claiming for salaries they've already paid out, or are about to pay out. Yet a decent number of employers have struggled for cash flow, with some telling employees they can't afford to pay their wages until the grants come in. See our Coronavirus employees help guide for full info.

  • Yes - those on furlough remain employed, so annual leave accrues. That's good news for most, but it does put some employers off furloughing people rather than redundancy, as it essentially leaves a cost accruing.

    While there's nothing in the furlough rules to prevent you agreeing to vary holiday terms with your employer, employment law means the minimum 28 days a year (20 days + 8 bank hols) can't legally be waived, only extra allowances above that. More in Furlough & annual leave.

  • In a nutshell, if you're contracted to get extra money, eg, some sales commission, fees or guaranteed overtime, it should count towards your salary when the 80% (up to £2,500/mth) is being worked out.

    However, if it's discretionary commission, such as tips, 'tronc' or bonuses, it's NOT included. Full info is in How is 80% of my salary calculated?

  • The scheme will now run until at least the end of October, though from August employers will be asked to contribute, which sadly may trigger redundancies. This extended date applies regardless of whether you've already been furloughed or are furloughed in the coming weeks.

  • It's up to individual employers to decide and define who is furloughed. It could be because you've no work to do, but it can also be because you have to be home to look after children or you're self-isolating.

    The key to this is that the state is looking to support people, so this isn't about loopholes to catch people out, it's about a broad sweep to gather people in.

  • Yes - you have the same rights on furlough as you do as an employee. This includes any entitlement to statutory sick pay or maternity pay, as well as redundancy payments.

  • Initially no. But from 1 July (a month earlier than planned), firms can bring furloughed employees back to work. The work hours can vary week by week, so it could be nothing, part time or full time. Exact details of how this will operate will be published on Friday 12 June, but for a rough preview see Martin's Furlough update 8-min video explainer.

  • You'll need to check. There's nothing in the furlough rules to stop you from taking a job elsewhere if you're placed on furlough by an employer (doing so wouldn't affect your furlough pay either). But your employment contract may not allow it, so check.

  • Yes, your employer can choose to 'top up' the Government grant and pay your full salary while you're furloughed – but it's not obliged to do this. And indeed, many won't have the funds to be able to do this.

  • The short answer is yes - you can be placed on furlough more than once.

    If you've been placed on furlough by an employer, the guidance states you'll need to remain furloughed for a minimum of three weeks. Some employees may come off furlough after that period, but there is nothing stopping an employer re-furloughing that worker for a second time later down the line (provided the furlough scheme is still running).

  • Yes - the Government has confirmed that key workers CAN be furloughed if needed.

  • If your employer goes in to administration, the administrator (the company now overseeing your employer's affairs) would be able to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – so long as you were on your employer's payroll on 19 March 2020.

    However, the administrator would only be able to do this if there was a reasonable likelihood of the employee being re-employed by the company - for example, if the administrator thinks it can sell your employer's business as a "going concern".

  • Yes. The national minimum wage or national living wage only applies when you are working or doing training that your employer requires you to do.

    Furloughed workers - who, by definition, aren't working - can be furloughed at 80% of their normal wage, even if that takes their earnings below the relevant minimum wage.

  • No. If you've been furloughed by your employer, then it MUST pay you the FULL 80% of your wage – it can't pay you any less. If it does, or it asks you to carry on working while being furloughed (though you can be asked to go for training), speak to your employer and politely remind it of the rules.

    Failing this, you can anonymously report your employer to HMRC's fraud department online. However, it may simply be a case of your employer being unaware of the rules.

  • Yes. Once the cash arrives with your employer, it needs to put it through the normal payroll process to ensure it's taxed.

  • Yes. The guidance says: "Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. Grants under the scheme are not counted as 'access to public funds', and you can furlough employees on all categories of visa."

    If your employer's told you you can't be furloughed because you're a foreign national, show them the relevant Government guidance.

  • In simple terms, no. New rules which kicked on 25 April mean that if you're due to go on maternity leave, your rights to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA) shouldn't be affected if your company is furloughing staff. See our Coronavirus Employees' Help for full details.

  • The Government's official guidance for employers has now been updated to say: "When variable payments are specified in a contract and those payments are always made, they may become non-discretionary. If that is the case, they should be included when calculating 80% of employees' wages."

    This clears up the big issue for supply teachers in England and Wales. They tend to earn minimum wage, plus bonuses on top (to allow easy pay changes for different work). Many umbrella firms had told teachers they were just due 80% of min wage, as the bonuses are 'discretionary'. Now, we hope all firms will furlough at the higher amounts. See more in Supply teacher help.

  • Weeks after announcing the furlough scheme, the Government revealed that nurseries may only be able to furlough some staff - a move that is likely to hit staff and fees. It had been thought they could furlough all the staff needed. But new guidance states, in simple terms, that nurseries can only get furlough funds for the proportion of income that's not publicly funded. As the result, some in the industry fear up to one in 10 staff may lose jobs and providers may shut or hike fees. For more, see Nursery furlough latest.

  • We've been chasing this for weeks, but sadly just can't get decent clarity from the state on it. Most practices do a mix of NHS work and private work, leaving many practice owners unclear how the Treasury's furlough guidance works in conjunction with NHS funding rules. To see what info we've got, read dental nurses and furlough.

Employee rights Q&As

With many people's jobs under threat, we've had lots of questions about your rights as an employee, including the sick pay rules, your rights to stay home and look after your kids and more. 

For full in-depth help on this, see our Coronavirus Employees' Help guide. But here are some of the key questions answered:

  • By law you can take a reasonable amount of time off to look after your kids. But as you're not sick or self-isolating, you don't get sick pay, and you don't legally have a right to be paid for this time.

    Employers can furlough you in this situation, which means your job's put on hold and the Government covers 80% of your salary up to £2,500/mth. Alternatively, some employers may offer paid time off, flexible working (you have a legal right to request this) or check if you can take it as paid holiday. Info & updates in Childcare work rights.

  • If you count as a key worker, you don't HAVE to keep sending your kids to school if you're able to make alternative arrangements for them to stay at home – and in fact, the Government says any child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

    But you can send your child to school if you work in a number of areas, including health and social care, education, childcare, key public services, local and national government, food and other necessary goods, public safety and national security, transport, utilities, communication and financial services. This isn't an exhaustive list and you should confirm with your employer. For full info see Coronavirus Employees' Help.

  • Sadly we are likely to see an increase in redundancies as a result of the pandemic, and it is likely to be difficult for many to find alternative employment while the shutdown conditions are still on.

    In some cases it may be possible to ask your old employer to rehire and furlough you instead - see Rehire and furlough help. If not, remember you do still have rights when going through redundancy - see our Redundancy survival plan.

  • If you need to take time off work due to becoming unwell from coronavirus, you'll be entitled to your usual sick leave and sick pay. But if you don't have symptons yet need to self-isolate as a precaution, you should also be able to claim sick pay if you need to.

    Of course, in some cases you may be able to continue working as normal while self-isolating, assuming you can work from home. But if that's not possible, you should be entitled to statutory sick pay as a minimum from day one (though your employer may offer more). See Sick pay help.

  • Home insurance should cover working from home - but not any stock/kit. If you're working from home when you don't normally, provided it's office/clerical work, most insurers are taking a relaxed approach (one key is that no business visitors come to your home, but that's not likely right now). But if you've brought expensive kit or stock home, it's worth informing it. See Home insurance help

  • Yes - if you're working from home, you can claim back tax on additional expenses. See full info in  Martin's Claim tax back for working from home blog.

  • No. The additional free 15 hours of nursery time (on top of the 15 hours everyone gets) for three and four-year-olds and the Tax-Free Childcare scheme are normally dependent on earning a min income of £140/wk. But when schools and childcare provisions return, if you're temporarily earning less, you'll still be able to get both as normal.

    Critical workers, eg, doctors, who due to coronavirus overtime go over the £100,000 earnings cap, will still be eligible too. See coronavirus childcare rules info, which includes details for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Help for the self-employed Q&As

Many who are self-employed have found they can't continue in business. But help is available in the form of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).  

Our Coronavirus self-employed & small limited companies help guide looks at your rights as a self-employed person and what support's out there - including help for limited company directors, gig workers and freelancers. Here are some of the key questions:

  • There's a Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, where the Government pays a non-repayable grant to support some whose profits have been hit by coronavirus. You can get 80% of profits up to £2,500/mth, though not everyone's eligible - for example, those with average trading profits of at least £50,000/year and those who started being self-employed after 6 April 2019 aren't covered.

    The scheme's now been extended and eligible people will be able to claim a second (and final) grant in August. For full info on who's eligible and how it works, see our Self-Employed Income Support Scheme help, plus watch Martin's video explaining the new extension.

  • If you're eligible for the scheme, HMRC should have contacted you either by letter, text or via email (if they sent you a letter you might not have received it yet). When you're contacted, you will be given a date and time to make an application. If you believe you're eligible but you've not heard from HMRC, use its eligibility tool to check if you're eligible and, if necessary, arrange an application appointment.

  • You need to apply by 13 July 2020 for the first grant. The second grant will open for applications in August.

  • Sadly the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme doesn't cover those who started self-employment after 6 April 2019, leaving many in the lurch (see the Chancellor's answer to Martin's request to change that cut-off). Yet the Scottish Government has now announced a further £100m of support to help newly self-employed Scots.

  • Universal credit payouts are reduced if you've savings. The drop starts at £6,000 savings and by £16,000 you can't claim the benefit at all. Yet the Department for Work & Pensions has confirmed that if you're self-employed and got savings set aside to pay tax, you can put a note of this in your online universal credit journal, and tell them when they call, and it should be discounted from the calculations. See savings for tax.  

  • Those who directors of their own limited companies (as many firms ask them to) will know already there's very little state support available, as dividend payments aren't covered. Martin has found some wriggle room though, which he explains in his 10-min small limited-company director coronavirus help video

  • You CAN apply for universal credit even if you'll be using the scheme. The best approach is to apply for universal credit now, and if you start receiving self-employed income support too then this will be classed as income, meaning the amount of universal credit you receive will decrease.

    For more help see our Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits guide. 

  • You CAN keep working if you apply for the grant. Plus, you do not need to prove coronavirus impact. However, HMRC says it only expects people to use the Self-employment Income Support Scheme if they've been negatively impacted, and is introducing checks to prevent fraud.

  • The grant you'll get is based on your average monthly profits – so if you made a loss, unfortunately you won't be able to get anything. However, do check what other support is available, including whether you can apply for a business interruption loan or universal credit. See our Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits guide for more help. 

  • The Government says individuals must "do the right thing" and only make a claim through the scheme if you've genuinely been adversely affected by coronavirus and need financial support.

    However, if you are struggling now and claim the grant, but later in the year your profits increase, the Government has confirmed the grant WON'T be "clawed back" by HMRC. It's worth noting that the grants are taxable – so claiming the grant will mean you have a higher taxable income when you come to do your 2020/21 tax return.

  • Sadly not. Under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, the state will pay 80% of average profits up to £2,500/month (provided total annual profits are under £50,000).

    The average profit is based on earnings in the three tax years up to 5 April 2019. This leaves those who started a business after that in the lurch, and even some who started during the year before may fall foul, as to qualify over 50% of annual income needs to be from self-employment.

  • You won't necessarily need to prove, or submit evidence, that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus, but Government guidance says you'll need to 'confirm' that this is the case.

    HMRC says it only expects people to use the Self-employment Income Support Scheme if they've indeed been negatively impacted, and is introducing checks to prevent fraud.

  • To qualify for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, more than 50% of your total income must come from self-employment.

    When looking at what your total income actually is, HMRC takes into account the following: 

    • Income from earnings
    • Trading profits
    • Property income
    • Dividends
    • Savings income
    • Pension income
    • Miscellaneous income
  • Martin asked the HMRC boss this question on his ITV show. Watch the answer here (thanks to ITV for the clip).

Credit cards, loans & debt Q&As

Thanks to emergency measures brought in by the financial regulator, there is help available if you're struggling to repay your credit card, store cards, personal loans and more.

For full in-depth help on these and other issues, see our Coronavirus Financial & Bills Help guide - but here are some of the key questions and answers.

  • Emergency measures brought in by the financial regulator require banks to give those struggling due to coronavirus who ask for help payment holidays of up to three months on personal loans, credit and store cards and catalogue debt. 

    You will still be charged interest during the payment holiday though, so only if you really need to -  if you can pay, it's best to keep doing so. See full details and lender-by-lender info in Credit card and loans help.

  • Under emergency measures brought in by the Financial Conduct Authority, banks must give up to the first £500 of an agreed overdraft interest-free for three months, if a customer's struggling due to coronavirus and asks for help. Yet many banks are going above and beyond that - for example by automaticaly giving ALL overdrawn customers up to £500 interest-free. See bank-by-bank overdraft help and updates.

  • Yes - the Student Loans Company has confirmed students WILL be paid their loans/grants for the summer term as normal (for example, if you get an 'away from home' loan you'll still get that even if temporarily at home). 

    As for rent... if you live in uni accommodation, some unis are saying they will refund/not charge for next term. If you're renting in private accommodation, you've the same renters' rights as everyone else at this time. If you're in hardship, speak to the uni - it may have a fund. See more on help for students.

  • Student maintenance loans, which cover living costs, are means-tested depending on household income, and those income forms are being completed by many right now.

    For new and continuing uni students from September, the funding is based on information in the 2018/19 tax year. Clearly many people will have seen substantial income drops since then. If your income is at least 15% lower over this year, you can do a current year income assessment. For more, see Coronavirus and students.

  • Normally if you've locked cash away in a fixed-rate savings account, you have to pay a penalty to get it out before the fixed term's up. Yet at least eight banks have told us they'll waive penalties for those affected by the pandemic. See Savers' bank-by-bank help.

    It is worth noting though, with interest rates dropping, your money may well be locked away at a rate that's now impossible to get - so you should only do this if you really need to.

  • Yes, life insurance policies will still cover coronavirus (unless someone took one out while they had it). The same should be true with income protection policies. However, most critical illness policies WON'T define coronavirus as a critical illness. See Life insurance latest.

  • If you've a car loan, PCP, leasing or HP deal and are struggling to pay due to coronavirus, you can now get a three-month payment holiday on request - and lenders can't repossess cars for non-payment. Full info and updates in Car finance help.

  • Under new rules from the financial regulator which came into effect on 27 April, payday loan borrowers who are struggling due to coronavirus and ask for help must be granted a one-month payment holiday - and you WON'T be charged interest during that period. For full details, see Payday loan help.

  • With all these, under new rules brought in by the financial regulator here are three-month payment holidays available for those struggling due to coronavirus who ask for help, though interest will still rack up, so only do it in emergencies. Pawnbrokers also won't be allowed to sell your goods during a payment holiday. See full details in Credit help.

    (Buy-now-pay-later covers things like in-store credit, where you've a few months or years to spread the cost of purchases. Rent-to-own covers firms like PerfectHome and the now-in-administration BrightHouse, where you pay regularly to use goods such as TVs and fridges.)

  • While those in dire straits can get can a credit card or loan payment holiday, only do that in an emergency, as it still leaves interest racking up.

    If you've manageable existing debt, ensuring the interest rate is as low as possible is the key. Yet we've crunched some eligibility data and it shows far fewer people getting accepted for cheaper debt. See our Balance Transfer and Cheap Loans guides for full help.

    For full info on what to try if you're really struggling, see our Debt Help guide. 

Household bills (incl energy, water etc) Q&As

The entire financial landscape has shifted due to coronavirus. And with many currently struggling to make ends meet, we've had questions on everything from energy bills to TV subscriptions.

For full in-depth help on these and other issues, see our Coronavirus Financial & Bills Help guide - but here are some of the key questions and answers.

Mortgages, renting & council tax Q&As

There's help available if you're struggling to pay your mortgage, with lenders offering payment holidays of up to three months. You may also be able to get help if you're renting, or struggling to pay your council tax.

For full in-depth help on these and other issues, see our Coronavirus Financial & Bills Help guide - but here are some of the key questions and answers.

  • Mortgage payment holidays are available for those who are struggling. That's where you stop paying your mortgage temporarily - you will still be charged interest, but it's added to the total cost. Originally this was a three-month holiday, but you can now ask to extend it for a further three months.

    You can apply online for a mortgage payment holiday with ALL major lenders until 31 October. Only do it if it's needed though, and don't just stop direct debits, as that'll mean you've failed to keep up payments and will kill your credit file.

  • Ever since mortgage and other payment holidays launched, we've been assured by the regulator that it won't impact credit files. But we're investigating a tip-off that some firms are looking at using Open Banking data or payment records to work out if you've had a mortgage holiday, then factoring it in. We've asked the FCA about it. Full info and what it means in when payment holidays may hurt applications.

  • The Bank of England cut interest rates twice in just over a week back in March - it's fallen from 0.75% to just 0.1%. Those with tracker and variable rate mortgages should see their payments reduced (see mortgage lender-by-lender cuts) by about £40/mth per £100,000 of mortgage, though those on fixed mortgages won't see any change for the duration of their fixed period. See Mortgages latest for full info.

  • If you'll struggle to pay rent during the coronavirus outbreak you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know your situation and work out a repayment plan. Government guidance is "encouraging tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme", though there are no guarantees. 

    New rules also mean landlords in England and Wales won't be able to start new eviction proceedings for at least the next three months, protecting private and social tenants - while in Scotland, private and social landlords will have to give an increased six months' notice before taking steps to evict a tenant (we're still awaiting rules for Northern Ireland). See full info in Renters' help.

  • If you're struggling, speak to your local authority. Some councils are offering forbearance  - for example, one told us it's letting residents defer April and May's payments (though they'll have to make it up later in the year). See Council tax holidays.

  • There's no easy answer. Martin has been asked this a lot, and would urge caution. Moving right now is difficult, and the Government is cautioning against it. Many removal and vehicle-hire firms are shut. And if you're in a chain, it's likely there'll be a break somewhere.

    If it's your dream home, you could discuss with the seller whether they'd agree to a delayed completion, so you can exchange now and complete in say six months, but you'll need lawyers and mortgage firms to put everything in place, and that might not be easy. See more Home moving help

  • Homebuyers and renters due to move have been urged by the Government to delay where possible. To help, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer up to three-month extensions for those who have already exchanged contracts or agreed completion dates. See Home moving help.

Benefits Help

Sadly many have recently lost jobs, seen their income drop dramatically or found they can't continue in business. 

Our Coronavirus universal credit & benefits guide looks at what benefits you can claim to help you through this difficult time – many can be claimed alongside other Government help available.

  • Universal credit is a benefit available to many who are either on low income (employed or self-employed) or unemployed, provided your household's got less than £16,000 in savings. For help, read our Coronavirus universal credit explained info and use our 10-min benefits checker.

  • Everyone gets a standard allowance, based on age and whether you're single or in a couple. See our Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits Help guide for a full breakdown.

    Some people can also get extra help for:

    • Housing costs – for rent, but mortgage-holders can apply for a 'support for mortgage interest' loan
    • If you care for children
    • If you have a sickness or disability that prevents you from working
    • If you have other caring responsibilities
  • Right now phone lines are very busy. So if you can it's best to do it online. Visit the official Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website here.

    But be patient. The DWP has been flat out processing applications – with about 1.2 million claims in the last three weeks. If you can apply for universal credit online, do so. Once you've completed your application it will call you back. This frees up the lines for people who can't get online to claim.

    If you need to phone, the universal credit helpline is 0800 328 5644.

  • It usually takes around five weeks from the date you submit your claim to your first payment. 

  • If you need help to pay your bills or cover other costs while you wait for your first universal credit payment to come through, you can apply to get an advance.

    The most you can get as an advance is the amount of your first estimated payment. It is important here to remember that this is a loan and must be paid back. It will usually be collected by reducing your future universal credit payments. Also, the guidelines say you may not be allowed an advance if you have any final earnings or redundancy payments you can be living on while waiting for your universal credit award.

  • The Department for Work & Pensions processed more than 1m claims in the first three weeks of the crisis - 10 times the normal demand. To try to unjam the system, now once you've completed your online application they'll call you back (and, in some cases, may not need to call and verify at all), freeing up phone lines for those who can't get online to claim. See full Universal credit help.

  • The Universal credit system is swamped and call centre staff are working flat out in unusual conditions (please be nice to them), so it's no surprise, we've had reports of people struggling. Here are three tips to help...

    1. Make a note in your online UC journal of the problem, it should help ensure someone gets in touch.
    2. UC staff will try to call you as the form is incomplete without ID. Expect a 'withheld number' or 0800 number (but beware of scams).
    3. You can try calling the UC helpline, but it will be busy.

  • If no one in the household earns over £50,000/year, you're due the full amount of child benefit - above that you get less, until at £60,000/year you're not due any. So those who normally earn above the threshold but whose salaries have recently dropped may now be able to claim. You can backdate claims up to three months too. For more info see Child benefit if income drops.

  • One significant change to universal credit as a result of coronavirus is the amount you can now claim towards housing costs.

    The amount it paid out for private tenants towards rent had been frozen since 2016, but from April the housing element of universal credit was unfrozen, meaning people who rent privately could be eligible for more money. See Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits Help for full details.

  • Yes. If you're looking after a child under the age of 16, you can apply for an extra amount to help with the costs. If you have two children, you'll get extra for your second child. If you have three children you might get an extra payment, but it depends when they were born. See Coronavirus Benefits Help for how much you can get.

  • If you can't work because of sickness or disability, you may be able to claim the 'limited capability for work and work-related activity' element of universal credit. See Coronavirus Benefits Help for how much you can get.

  • If you're a carer for someone in your household for at least 35 hours a week who is severely disabled, you may be able to get the 'carer's element' as part of your monthly universal credit payment.

    It's £160.20 per month, and only one person in the household can claim it. If you're getting the separate carer's allowance benefit you can continue to get it, if you continue to be eligible.

  • This is where it gets complicated as there is NO FIXED AMOUNT YOU CAN EARN BEFORE YOU STOP QUALIFIYING FOR UNIVERSAL CREDIT.

    It all depends on your personal situation. So unless two claimants have identical sets of circumstances they will receive different entitlements and be able to earn different amounts of money before their entitlement is eliminated. See Coronavirus Benefits Help for more details though.

  • Universal credit payouts have been increased by £1,000/year in response to coronavirus, and the housing allowance for private renters (which is part of universal credit) has also become more generous. Yet many existing benefit recipients are still on the old system, so is it worth switching to universal credit? 

    There's no one-size-fits-all answer. For many, payouts are similar, but:

    - Some are better off, eg, some renters in expensive areas such as London and/or disability benefit recipients.
    Some are worse off, eg, if you've £6,000+ saved, or couples where one is above state pension age.

    For more info, including our free tool to help, read Will I be better off switching to universal credit?

  • While universal credit is the main benefit available, there are other benefits that you may be eligible for too. See our Coronavirus Benefits Help to check if any of them apply to you.

  • British Sign Language (BSL) users can now access universal credit using the video relay service on the Gov.uk website. This allows BSL users to contact the Department for Work and Pensions via an interpreter, from a smart phone (excluding Blackberry or Windows phones), computer or tablet.

    The service is available 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and you don't need to book in advance. Simply click this link, turning on your microphone and front-facing camera and you'll be connected to a BSL interpreter via video. Explain what you'd like to discuss and the interpreter will telephone the service you require and relay the conversation between you and the other person.

    The video relay service is provided by SignVideo, which has full instructions on how to use it. You can access it via the Gov.uk link above or download the free SignVideo app on desktop or smartphone (iOS and Android).

  • The death of a loved one is undoubtedly one of the most stressful and emotional times you can experience. And for some of us, it can also bring extra financial worry. But there is help available with funeral costs and financial support for up to 18 months after your bereavement. See Coronavirus Benefits Help for full details.

Travel Rights

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated travel around the globe, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office now warning Brits against all non-essential foreign trips indefinitely and advising any still overseas to return to the UK immediately.

To help, we've been working flat out to answer your questions on travel insurance, cancelling and booking holidays, and much more. See our full Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for full help. But here are some quick questions and answers:

  • The Foreign Office now advises against travel 'indefinitely' (it originally advised against non-essential travel until 16 April - now it's extended this, with no clear end date). As well as being a useful safety guide, this is important because Foreign Office advice can determine whether or not you're able to get a refund or insurance payout if you're due to travel.

    It's likely you'll need to wait until close to your travel date before airlines/hotels/travel insurers agree to refunds though. Help is in the Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

  • You can no longer get new travel insurance to cover coronavirus cancellation - and annual policies may not cover new bookings. If you have a holiday booked but no insurance, then it is likely too late. See more info in Travel insurance latest.

  • Be careful. Unless the company has a generous cancellation policy, if you choose to cancel, that counts as 'disinclination to travel' and you aren't entitled to money back from the firm or your insurer.

    Instead wait for the holiday firm to cancel, then you're due a refund. Even if it doesn't cancel, if the Foreign Office still advises against travel, as long as you bought travel insurance in time, most providers will cover you. If neither happens, you're likely no worse cancelling later than now. However, if you're definite you won't travel, you could ask to move the date, or for a voucher. See Should I cancel my trip?

  • With flights on a UK or EU airline, or any flight leaving the UK or EU, or any package holiday, if your booking's cancelled, you're entitled to a full refund. Yet right now many airlines and package holiday firms are pushing customers towards getting a voucher instead.

    With the travel industry experiencing severe difficulties down to Covid-19, you may want to consider accepting a voucher or rebooking if you can afford it. However, it's important to understand you may have limited protection if you accept a voucher, and you are absolutely entitled to insist on a refund – though you may have to fight to get it. For full help, see Coronavirus Travel Rights

  • Ryanair is playing fast and loose with refunds - we've reported it to Trading Standards and the aviation regulator. You've a legal right to a refund for cancelled flights, and while flight and holiday companies are making people jump through hoops to claim it rather than vouchers (ie, offering vouchers online, but you have to call swamped phone lines for cash refunds), Ryanair's gone one step beyond.

    We've 100s of reports that after Ryanair passengers jumped through the hoops to claim cash not vouchers, they were still sent vouchers anyway. See full Ryanair refund farce news

  • If your package holiday's been cancelled you are legally entitled to a refund. However, you may be willing to take a voucher, to help the struggling travel industry out, or if you just can't face pushing to get cash. But if the firm then goes bust, you may not be fully protected - it depends in part on what kind of voucher you got:

    • Refund credit notes: Issued for some ATOL-protected package hols and flight-only booking refunds, these will likely offer ATOL insolvency protection, so you'd likely get a full refund (though it's a new protection, so it's not been 100% tested).

    • Other vouchers: These aren't protected if the firm goes bust - legally you'd just be a creditor, though it could be worth trying to claim via your card provider under chargeback or Section 75 rules. 

    For full info, see Holiday voucher protection.

  • Most insurers will cover you for cancellation if a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advisory is put in place for your destination after you've taken out the policy and it's still in place when you're due to travel – and of course, right now the FCO's warning against non-essential travel to ALL destinations. See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for more info, including what individual insurers have told us.

  • While it's generally difficult to get new travel insurance policies at the moment – if you have an existing annual travel insurance policy, you may well have more joy.

    Several travel insurers, including Axa and Coverwise, have told us that if you have an annual policy and choose to renew, you'll still get the same level of cover on your renewed policy as you did on the old one. (Don't assume this applies to all policies or travel insurers though – if renewing, check directly.) See Coronavirus Travel Rights for more details.

  • Insurers are covered by the financial 'treating customers fairly' rules, which mean if you don't think it has been fair, you can make a formal complaint. After it replies, or after eight weeks if it doesn't, you can then go on to the free Financial Ombudsman to adjudicate.

    Eight weeks may be a long time in this case, so if your situation is really financially pressing then tell the ombudsman sooner.

  • Major travel insurers including Axa, Churchill and Direct Line are now offering pro-rata refunds to customers who've ruled out travelling due to coronavirus and want to cancel their policy. But you'll need to request a refund to get one – and should only do this if you're certain you no longer need the cover. See Coronavirus Travel Rights for more info.

  • If you've booked a future trip, then your right to cancel and get a refund depends very much on the latest UK Government travel advice issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which is what insurers and airlines generally take their cue from. See Coronavirus Travel Rights for more help.

  • A Foreign Office warning is often the trigger for your travel insurance covering cancellation, but whether or not you'll be able to get your money back depends on your individual situation, and when the holiday is. See Coronavirus Travel Rights for what you can do in various scenarios.

  • Right now the Foreign Office is warning against all non-essential travel overseas, indefinitely.

    If you absolutely have to travel while the advisory is in place, you may still be able to but will need to carefully consider all the risks and also check the entry restrictions of the country you're travelling to – in some cases, British visitors have been barred altogether.

    See the Government's guidance on international travel for more help, and also bear in mind your travel insurance may be voided if you travel while an advisory's in place, so check with your insurer.

  • This is a big decision for many who've paid deposits for trips and are currently being asked to pay the remainder or another installment, particularly on summer holidays. Sadly there is no right answer here - all we can do is help you weigh it up. For the pros and cons, see Coronavirus Travel Rights.

  • If you're due to travel to an area which has a high volume of coronavirus cases but there's no FCO warning at the time you travel, and you're worried about the heightened risk of the virus due to your age or underlying health conditions, speak to your insurer to discuss your options. We've asked several insurers about this and have been given a range of answers - see Coronavirus Travel Rights for full details.

  •  Unfortunately, if no FCO warning is in place at the time that you're travelling, then airlines, tour operators and insurers won't usually offer a refund if you decide not to travel.

    Yet if you've booked a package holiday and were sold on the basis that you'd be able to visit a specific attraction and this was the main reason you booked the trip, you could argue that the attraction being closed counts as a "significant change" to your holiday under the Package Travel Regulations, and therefore ask for a refund.

    Check the documents and T&Cs from your travel provider to see whether you may be able to argue this. However, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says it's unlikely that many packages would have been sold on this basis.

  • If you were due to travel on a cruise that has been cancelled, you'll generally receive a full refund – though check your cruise line's policy directly. See Coronavirus Travel Rights for more details.

  • Currently the Foreign Office advises against all non-essential travel, so providing you had travel insurance in place before coronavirus, you're normally covered even if the flight/holiday isn't cancelled. The quarantine issue is therefore speculative, but we're starting to prepare our quarantine-affected holidays guidance. 

Life-in-Lockdown Help

While the primary concern right now is health, many are also worried about cancelled events, unused train tickets, subscriptions, gym memberships, postponed weddings, free school meals, MOTs and more.

Our Coronavirus Life-in-Lockdown Help guide looks at what lockdown could mean for you, including your rights if you've been affected by cancellations, and free or cheap ways to keep entertained. Here are some of your most-asked questions: