Martin Lewis explains the financial help you can get if you've been 'pinged' and told to self-isolate by the Covid app or NHS Test & Trace
Over 600,000 people in England and Wales were 'pinged' and told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app between 8 and 14 July, new figures show. If you're one of them – or if you're one of 100,000s instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace, there's a range of financial support you could get, as MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis has explained.
Possible help includes tax relief if you're an employee working from home, sick pay, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and a £500 self-isolation payment, though what you're eligible for will depend on your circumstances. Watch Martin's tips from ITV's This Morning below, and we then summarise the key points – for more info, see Coronavirus Employees' Help and Coronavirus Self-Employed and Small Ltd Company Help.
Martin explains what help you can get if self-isolating
Whether you MUST self-isolate depends on how you're alerted
Exactly how you are contacted and told to self-isolate is key here. As Martin explains above, if you're pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app in England or Wales (or the equivalent apps in Scotland and Northern Ireland), it's not a legal requirement that you self-isolate, though you are still strongly encouraged to do so.
However if you are called and told to self-isolate by the NHS Test & Trace service in England, the equivalent Test and Protect service in Scotland or the Test, Trace, Protect service in Wales, there's no wiggle room – you MUST self-isolate and if you don't, you could be fined. (In Northern Ireland it's not a legal requirement to self-isolate if you've been instructed to do so by its Contact Tracing service – though it is strongly encouraged.)
What financial help is available to those who have to self-isolate?
Here are the key need-to-knows:
- Working from home as you've been pinged? You're eligible for a tax rebate. If you're an employee and have to work from home as you're self-isolating, Martin's had it confirmed that you're eligible for a whole year's tax rebate worth up to £125 if you had extra costs such as electricity (which most will have). This works in the same way as if you had to work from home because your employer told you to.
For a full explanation including step-by-step help on how to get the rebate, see Martin's How to claim WFH tax back blog.
- Can't work from home while self-isolating? You may be able to get sick pay. If you can't work from home and need to take time off as a result of being in close contact with someone who's tested positive for coronavirus, you could be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP). This applies both if you've been contacted by Test & Trace (or the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish equivalent) OR if you were pinged by app.
SSP currently stands at £95.85 a week. To qualify, you must be employed and earn an average of at least £120 a week. For more on the eligibility criteria and how to get SSP, see our Coronavirus Employees' Help guide.
As Martin points out in the video, it's also worth checking your employer's sick pay policy – it may well be more generous than the statutory amount.
- Self-employed? Check if you can claim the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant. The fifth and final SEISS grant will open for applications later this July for self-employed people whose businesses have been affected by coronavirus.
HMRC has confirmed that if you're self-isolating - whether it's due to the app or a call from Test & Trace - and can't work from home, this would count as you being "previously trading but temporarily unable to do so", which means you could be eligible to claim the SEISS grant. However, you'd still need to meet all the other criteria, including, crucially, having a "significant reduction" in trading profits.
For full details on how the grant works, who's eligible and how to claim, see our Coronavirus Self-Employed & Small Limited Company Help guide.
- On a low income? You may be able to claim a £500 self-isolation payment, but there's no guarantee. If you receive certain means-tested benefits such as universal credit, working tax credit or income support, and you have to self-isolate but are unable to work from home and so lose income, you should be eligible for a payment of £500 for each period of 10-day self-isolation you need to undertake.
The grants are administered by local authorities – so you'll need to contact your council to claim it. If you've been pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales, you should see a 'Financial support' button which will take you to a page with more details on how to request the payment.
A word of warning though: while it's definitely worth trying to get the payment, it may not be something to rely on – Martin's been told off the record that some local authorities in England at least are running out of funds (as we revealed happened in some areas at the end of last year) and the administration of these grants varies a lot depending on where you are. For more help, see our full Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits guide.