Citizens Advice: What are your rights as consumers and employees in light of the coronavirus pandemic?
The situation on this is changing all the time. Citizens Advice has issued the following information to help answer some common questions about consumer and employment rights. It covers work, school, sick pay, benefits, travelling abroad, event cancellations/postponements and scams. Please note this is correct at the time of going to print.
Right now, government advice is to avoid any unnecessary contact with other people and not to go to work unless absolutely necessary. Your employer should support you to work from home where possible.
If you can’t work from home, your employer should help you find ways to avoid unnecessary contact, such as:
- letting you travel when public transport is less busy
- not asking you to go to big meetings, or arranging to hold them online
- finding car parking spaces for more vulnerable employees
If your employer sends you home because of coronavirus
If your employer keeps paying you, they can claim up to 80% of your wages back from the government, with a maximum of £2,500 each month. This is called the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention scheme’.
Your employer can choose whether to pay you the other 20% of your wages.
While you’re not working, you’re called a ‘furloughed worker’.
If you’re employed
You’ll get statutory sick pay (SSP) if you’re considered unfit for work and are usually entitled to it – check if you’re entitled to SSP.
It’s worth checking your contract – your employer might pay you more than SSP when you’re sick.
If you’re not sick but have been told to self-isolate and can’t work from home, you should still get your contractual sick pay on top of SSP.
You can also check your rights to sick pay if you get coronavirus on the ACAS website. ACAS provides free advice to employees and employers.
You can get an ‘isolation note’ online to prove to your employer you need to stay off work through the NHS website, or the NHS App.
If you’re self-employed
You can’t get SSP if you’re self-employed.
If you have to take time off work and you don’t get paid while you’re off, you might be entitled to claim benefits. If you’re already claiming benefits, you might get more money.
If you already get benefits like Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, tell the office paying you that you can’t work because you’re sick. You might be entitled to more money while you are off work.
If you’re not claiming any benefits you might be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit to top up your income.
Taking your children to school
Schools, nurseries and sixth form colleges have been closed for most children from the 23rd March 2020.
You can still take your children to school if:
- you’re a ‘key worker’ – which means your job keeps important services running, like the NHS, police or food deliveries
- they’re considered vulnerable, for example they have a social worker or an Education, Health and Care Plan
You’ll be told if your children need to go to a different school.
If you need to take time off to look after your children – Speak to your employer if you need to take time off work to look
If you’re claiming benefits or asked to go to a medical assessment
The government has postponed all face-to-face benefits assessments or appointments at the Jobcentre Plus until at least 19th June 2020.
This means you don’t have to go to:
- interviews if you’re starting a claim for JSA, ESA or Universal Credit
- medical assessments for ESA, Universal Credit or PIP
- appointments with your work coach
The Jobcentre Plus might still ask to talk to you by phone.
If you’re ill or you’re following guidance to self-isolate
Don’t go to the Jobcentre Plus. Tell the Jobcentre Plus you’re ill or self-isolating by:
calling the office paying your benefit
updating your online journal if you get Universal Credit
You won’t have to search for work or do work-related activity
If you can’t pay your rent
The government has announced a ban on evictions – your landlord can’t start court action for at least 3 months. You should explain the situation to your landlord straight away – they might give you more time to pay.
- You still need to pay your rent. If you’ve fallen behind with your rent, you should start dealing with rent arrears. You can also check if you can get extra financial help.
- If your landlord doesn’t offer to be flexible with your rent payments, it’s a good idea to pay as much as you can afford and keep a record of what you discussed.
If you normally have to leave the house to pay your rent
Ask your landlord if you can pay your rent in a different way, such as a card payment over the phone or online transfer. If this isn’t possible, you could try to find a friend or family member you trust to go and pay the rent for you.
Make sure you get a receipt in case your landlord doesn’t realise you’ve already paid.
Travelling abroad / need to cancel
Government advice is not to travel abroad unless absolutely essential.
If you really have to travel abroad you should check up-to-date travel guidance on GOV.UK. You should also contact your insurer and make sure you’re covered to travel – get the details of your cover in writing.
If you already have a holiday booked check the guidance from your travel agent, airline or other holiday provider. You might be able to rebook your holiday and go later in the year.
If you need to cancel your holiday get in touch with your travel insurer to see if you’re covered for cancelling.
You can also find out what to do if your package holiday is cancelled. If you need more help, you can get advice from the consumer service.
Event cancellation/ postponement
If you bought your ticket from an official seller and the organiser cancels, moves, reschedules, or makes the event behind closed doors, you should get a refund. The official seller is the best person to ask about how to get a refund.
If you bought your ticket from a ticket-reselling website, refunds will depend on the site’s terms and conditions.
If you bought from a private seller and the event is cancelled or rescheduled then it is unlikely you will be able to recover your money. We recommend you contact the seller.
If you’re due to go to an event, keep checking the information from the official seller or organiser to ensure you’re up to date.
If you’re contacted by someone offering to act for you to recover your money make sure that you’re looking out for the signs of a potential scam. If you think you have been scammed, you need to take steps to protect yourself. These could include calling the police if you feel threatened and contacting your bank to let it know what has happened. For more information on how to recognise a scam or what to do if you think you’ve been scammed see www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Home
For specific details on government support and policies mentioned, please visit: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
For more advice:
- Go to citizensadviceeastherts.org.uk
- Leave a message for the Message Line on 01920 459944 and an adviser will call you back as soon they can
- Complete an online form at www.org.uk/webadvice
Please note this is a small volunteer-led service dealing with a large number of queries so it may take a little longer than normal to get back to you.
Citizens Advice East Herts is part of the national network of Citizens Advice charities.
Registered charity no 1083211.