Work during coronavirus
Last updated: 16/04/2020
This section has information on working from home, furloughing staff, being off sick, the self-employed and more.
As Scotland is now on lockdown, you should not be going to work unless you’re a ‘key worker’ – such as working in the NHS, police or food deliveries. View the key worker definition.
Key workers are eligible for childcare – check your local council for details.
Working from home
Advice from the Scottish Government is that we should not go back to work yet. Your employer should let you work from home if it’s possible.
Many employers are exercising common sense and flexibility to allow employees to reduce or vary their working hours or pattern to enable them to work around childcare needs. If you think this is an option in your role then you should raise that with your employer. Explain how the pattern could work for you and them.
If your employer does not agree to your request then you have the option to make a formal request for flexible working. Make clear your request is only temporary, or if accepted, it will become a permanent change to your contract. Check your rights.
When your job can’t be done at home, your employer should keep you safe from coronavirus. This could be by:
- letting you travel to work at quieter times of the day
- reducing how much face-to-face contact you have with the public
- making sure that staff stay at least 2 metres apart in your workplace
Talk to your employer if you think there’s more they could do to keep you safe.
If you’re still working and you think the business should be closed, you can report your employer to the police or Trading Standards.
The furlough scheme
What does being ‘furloughed’ mean and how will it affect you?
Your employer should use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme scheme to pay you while there’s no work to do or if you can’t work because of childcare or other caring responsibilities. You should be paid 80% of your normal pay, up to a total of £2500 a month and this can continue until the end of October. You will be entitled to this if you have been enrolled for PAYE since at least 19 March 2020. This includes if you’re a casual worker, an agency worker or on a zero-hours contract. If you are on a zero hours contract, and you’re classed as an ‘employee’ and you earn £118 per week on average, you should be on the PAYE system.
When your employer applies to the scheme, they should pay you for any time you were sent home from 1 March 2020. From July, you may be able to return to work part-time. Your employer will be asked to pay an increasing percentage of your National Insurance, Pension and salary. Please contact our helpline for advice or see Gov.uk.
If your normal pay changes from month to month
If you’ve been employed for a year or more, your employer should claim for whichever is higher out of:
- the amount you earned in the same month last year
- your average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year
If you’ve had your job for less than a year, they’ll take an average of your earnings since you started.
The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme only covers you if you’re not working. If you’re working from home, you should get your normal pay from your employer. Citizens Advice Scotland has useful information.
If your salary is reduced or you are not eligible for the Job Retention Scheme, you may qualify for support though the social security system, including Universal Credit. Take a look at our benefits information.
If you have more than one employer, you can be furloughed by each employer separately. Each employer can pay you a maximum of £2,500 a month. This means you could get more than £2,500 in total, if your normal pay is high enough.
If your employer says you must continue to go to work, will not allow you to work from home, and you do not feel safe, seek advice. Contact Working Families on 0300 012 0312 or email@example.com about employment rights.
If you are pregnant
Government guidance is that pregnant women should work from home. Your employer should help you to work from home wherever practical. You should show your employer the UK Government Guidance and discuss what action needs to be taken.
If you have to stay home, you may be able to top up your income with Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance, or Universal Credit. You can find out more about these on our ‘Having a Baby’ page, or contact our helpline for advice.
The new Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) gives taxable grants to self-employed people to make up for loss of income due to the coronavirus pandemic. To qualify you must:
- Have filed a tax return for the tax year 2018/19 as self-employed (the deadline to submit was 23 April);
- Have profits of less than £50,000 in 2018/19 or average profits of less than £50,000 in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.
- Have lost profits due to coronavirus
- Have earned self-employed income in the tax year 2019-2020
If you qualify for the payment, it will cover 80% of average monthly profits up to £2,500 a month for three months. HMRC will calculate your profits based on any tax returns you’ve submitted over the last 3 tax years. If you’re eligible for the scheme, HMRC should have contacted you either by letter, text or via email to give you a date and time to make an application. First payment should have reached your account by 25 May to cover the period of March, April and May.
A second grant has been announced. Applications will open in August 2020; the criteria are the same as for the first grant, but the payment will represent 70% (reduced from 80%) of your average monthly trading profits. This will be paid in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profit and will be capped at £6,570 in total (reduced from £7,500).
The SEISS payment will be taxable and taken into account as income for Tax Credits. SEISS payments will be treated as earnings for Universal Credit and will affect the amount of Universal Credit you receive in the assessment period in which you receive the SEISS payment.
If you’re off because someone is sick
If you’re staying at home because you have Coronavirus symptoms, you’ll be considered unfit for work. You’ll also be considered unfit for work if you’re staying at home, or ‘self-isolating’, because you’ve been in contact with someone with Coronavirus. You’ll get statutory sick pay (SSP) of £95.85 per week if you are an employee, and you normally earn £118 per week. If you’re not sure, you can check if you’re entitled to SSP on the Turn2Us website or call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323.
Usually, you are not entitled to SSP for the first three days off work. But if you are self-isolating, you will be paid from the first day of your self-isolation. If you are still self-isolating and off work after seven days, you can get an online self-isolation note from the NHS website.
Your employer may have a company sick pay scheme in place that pays you more than SSP. Have a look at what your contract says or check with your HR department.
Employment and Support Allowance
If you are not entitled to SSP and you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions, you may be entitled to New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If you’re self-employed, you can’t claim SSP but you may be able to claim new style ESA if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions.
Even if you discover you’re not entitled to ESA, it can be worth claiming so you get National Insurance credits which could be important if you end up being off work for a long time.
You may also be able to claim Universal Credit to top up your SSP or ESA, especially for help with children and rent. But if you already get Tax Credits and Housing Benefit you may be better off staying on these benefits. Contact our helpline.