Coronavirus: Universal Credit and other benefits

Frequently asked questions

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Statutory Sick Pay

I can’t afford to stay at home, but I’m infected or displaying symptoms. What help can I get?

Those who are required to self-isolate because they are infected or displaying symptoms of coronavirus, and are unable to work as a result, may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Other eligibility criteria apply.

People not eligible to receive sick pay may be able to apply for Universal Credit and/or apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

For those on a low income and already claiming Universal Credit: it is designed to adjust depending on people’s earnings or other income. If claimants are self-isolating and doing fewer hours, they should let us know in the usual way via their online account.

I’ve got to self-isolate because someone in my household is displaying symptoms or I’m told I came into contact with someone who has coronavirus. What help can I get?

Statutory Sick Pay is available to those who are required to self-isolate because someone in their household is displaying symptoms or they have been notified that they have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus, and are unable to work as a result. Other eligibility criteria apply.

If you are fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and 6 months you are not required to self-isolate if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if you live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The government suggests using Universal Credit if I don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, but that won’t provide me with money quickly enough. How will it work in practice?

Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can apply for up to a month’s advance upfront.

Do I have to wait a few days before I can start getting Statutory Sick Pay?

No. If you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you will get it from the first day of absence, rather than from the fourth.

Can I get Statutory Sick Pay and other benefits at the same time?

You may be able to get Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay at the same time. If you are receiving Statutory Sick Pay it may be a good idea to apply for Universal Credit as well, particularly if you pay rent or have children to support. If you get both, your Statutory Sick Pay will be taken into account when calculating your Universal Credit payment.

You cannot get Employment and Support Allowance at the same time as Statutory Sick Pay.

I have a zero hours contract and/or work in the gig economy. Can I claim Statutory Sick Pay?

If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. Check your eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay.

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Jobcentre appointments

If you’re already receiving benefits

Will I need to go into the jobcentre for any appointments?

In return for receiving Universal Credit you will need to do certain things. If you are able to prepare or look for work, this will include attending appointments with your work coach.

At the moment these could be by phone or safely in our Jobcentres and we’re starting to offer video calls too.

No matter how your appointment is due to be held, it’s important that you attend. If you are asked to attend an appointment but don’t attend and don’t have a good reason why, your Universal Credit payments will be affected.

If there is a good reason why you can’t attend, let us know as soon as possible.

You will be required to wear a face covering when entering a jobcentre, unless you are in an exempt category. Do not visit a jobcentre if you have any symptoms of coronavirus. Please also follow the latest government guidance on meeting with others safely and Coronavirus: how to stay safe.

You do not need to come to the jobcentre unless we ask you to do so. If you need to contact us, the quickest way to do this is online or by phone. If you do need to visit a jobcentre, they are open and one of our colleagues will be able to assist you.

DWP will never text or email asking for personal information or bank details.

Will I still need to do jobsearch activity?

We will contact you to discuss what steps you are taking to look for work, and to agree a new Claimant Commitment. You do not need to call us.

In the meantime you can use the Find a job service to search and apply for jobs.

You still need to tell us if anything changes – use the ‘Report a change of circumstances’ link in your online account

What sort of jobsearch activity will I be expected to do?

We will contact you to discuss your Claimant Commitment. In the meantime, if you are able to look for work safely while following government guidance on coronavirus, you should:

  • update your CV
  • consider your opportunities for returning to work
  • search for jobs, for example on the government’s JobHelp website
  • read about commitments and looking for work in the coronavirus and Universal Credit guide, which you can find in your online account
  • make yourself available to start work.

You do not need to contact us.

What support can I get from my local jobcentre?

If you are able to look for work and it is safe to do so then you should continue to check Find a job and other online resources such as the government’s JobHelp website.

You do not need to attend the jobcentre unless we ask you to do so. If you need to contact us the quickest way to do this is online or by phone.

If you need to attend a jobcentre, they are open and one of our colleagues will be able to assist you.

You will be required to wear a face covering when entering a jobcentre, unless you are in an exempt category. Do not visit a jobcentre if you have any symptoms of coronavirus. Please also follow the latest government guidance on meeting with others safely and lockdown restrictions

Will I still receive my payments?

You will receive your payments as normal.

If you need to make a new claim

How can I make a new claim if I can’t come to the jobcentre?

You should apply for Universal Credit online. You do not need to call DWP to arrange an appointment and you shouldn’t attend the jobcentre unless we ask you to. However, jobcentre staff will still meet vulnerable customers including those fleeing domestic abuse.

We will know that you have applied and will contact you if we need any more information from you to process any payment you are due. We will put a note into your online account and follow up with a phone call – this may appear as a private number. Please check your online account and look out for calls from us.

If you’ve recently applied for Universal Credit, your claim starts the day you submit your application online. This date is not reliant on your identity being verified online or linked to the date of any further contact. However, your identity will need to be verified before you can receive your first Universal Credit payment.

Depending on your circumstances, you might need to take part in a telephone interview with a work coach. We will contact you if this is the case – you do not need to call us.

If you can’t attend your telephone interview please let us know as soon as possible using your online account so that it can be rearranged. If we ask you to attend a telephone interview, your Universal Credit claim won’t be able to proceed until that interview has taken place.

DWP will never text or email asking for personal information or bank details.

If you cannot use digital services at all, Universal Credit applications can still be made over the phone.

I tried to verify my identity online using GOV.UK Verify but it wasn’t working. What should I do?

If you’re a new customer and are having a problem verifying your identity online do not worry – your claim has been submitted. Your jobcentre will know you have applied online, they will call you if they need to confirm any information with you in order to progress your claim.

Our phone systems mean calls from us may display as 0800 numbers, or an unknown number. If you get a call from an unknown number following our message in your account please pick up, as it’s likely to be DWP. We will of course ensure that you know the call is genuine.

Please note, there are scams preying on people, so do not share information if you’re not sure the call is from DWP. If you are in any doubt, please ask the caller to post a specific form of words into your journal so you can be sure it’s us.

What about people who can’t use the Universal Credit online claim form?

Around 98% of people make their claim for Universal Credit online, but for people who struggle with computers, it is possible to make a claim over the phone.

Extra support is available including our Help to Claim service, delivered by Citizens Advice, which supports people with their application. Help to Claim in Scotland

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Work Capability Assessments

I have already had a telephone Work Capability Assessment and was told I would need a face to face assessment. Why have I now received an invitation to another telephone/video assessment?

We have now expanded the process so that decisions can be made following most telephone and video assessments. This is why we have given you a telephone or video appointment.

You must attend and take part in your telephone or video assessment. If you are receiving Employment and Support Allowance and don’t attend your appointment, your benefit may be stopped. If you are receiving Universal Credit and don’t attend your appointment, your benefit may change and we may decide you are capable for work.

Can I be found fit for work following a telephone/video assessment?

Yes. All fit for work outcomes following telephone or video Work Capability Assessments are carefully checked before they are passed to DWP for a decision. This means we can make decisions following most telephone or video assessments so we can pay claimants the right benefit as soon as possible.

Can I have someone with me for the call?

As with face-to-face appointments, you can have someone with you at your telephone or video assessment to offer help and support. This would usually be the person who knows you best and understands you and your needs (for example, a relative, support worker or friend). They must be 16 years old or over. They may be able to speak on your behalf and can offer useful support. However, the assessment will focus on you and the answers you give.

If your support worker/friend cannot be with you in person because of the current government guidelines on social distancing, we can add them to the call. We will ask you for their number and they will need to be ready at the time of your appointment.

What should I do if I need a language interpreter?

Please let the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA) know as soon as possible on 0800 2888777 (Universal Credit and ESA only). A relative or friend can be present at your telephone or video assessment to interpret for you, but they must be 16 years old or over.

How long will a telephone/video Work Capability Assessment last?

The Universal Credit/ESA telephone or video assessment should last between 20 minutes and 1 hour, but may take longer if necessary.

What about people who can’t engage over the telephone?

We are aware that for some claimants, particularly those with certain health conditions or disabilities, it may not be possible to carry out assessments over the phone. In addition, there may also be cases where the evidence provided at the time of the claim is limited.

Where it is not possible to carry out a telephone assessment or make a recommendation, Universal Credit and ESA claimants will remain on their current award until we are able to conduct a face-to-face assessment or gather the evidence needed for a recommendation to be made.

I attended a Work Capability Assessment. When will I hear from you? 

Due to the current situation with coronavirus it may take us some time to contact you and let you know the outcome of your assessment. We will be in contact with you as soon as we can.

Will there be delays in rearranging my Work Capability Assessment?

We anticipate customers may experience a longer wait for their assessment during this period, as we manage unprecedented volumes of demand for benefits.

If, following an assessment, we decide that you should get extra benefit, we will pay you any money we owe you.

What happens if my benefit was due for review?

Your current award will continue, while we put in place alternative arrangements.

I have received an ESA50 or UC50 questionnaire. What do I need to do?

You need to complete and return the questionnaire by the deadline given in the letter sent with it, using the envelope provided.

The information you give in this questionnaire may mean a decision can be made about your claim without you needing to have a face-to-face or telephone assessment.

We understand that during the coronavirus outbreak some claimants have been unable to complete and return their ESA50/UC50 on time. If you are self-isolating you must complete and return the ESA50/UC50 questionnaire as soon as you are able to, after your self-isolation period has ended.

If you are unable to return your ESA50/UC50 form by the deadline because of other concerns around coronavirus, it is important that you complete the late return section of the questionnaire to let us know why. We may also contact you at a later date to ask why there was a delay returning it to us.

If you require support with completing the ESA50/UC50 you can contact the Health Assessment Advisory Service by telephone on 0800 288 8777 or by email at customer-relations@chdauk.co.uk

I can’t get medical evidence from my GP/hospital to support my Work Capability Assessment at this time. What can I do?

We understand that during the coronavirus outbreak, it may be difficult to obtain further medical evidence from a healthcare provider or your GP. You are therefore encouraged to complete and return your questionnaires as fully as possible and send in any information you already hold. It might be that this is enough for us to be able to make a decision.

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Maternity support

What financial support is the government offering pregnant women?

You may be eligible for Maternity Allowance, or Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer, depending on your circumstances. The Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) is a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child. To get SSMG you must have received health advice from a certified health professional and be claiming certain benefits or tax credits. Read more about eligibility for SSMG

Those who self-isolate because they are (or someone in their household is) displaying symptoms of coronavirus, and are unable to work as a result, may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Other eligibility criteria apply.

If you are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you can apply for Universal Credit and/or apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance

I’m pregnant and self-isolating. Can I get sick pay?

Those who self-isolate because they are (or someone in their household is) displaying symptoms of coronavirus, and are unable to work as a result, may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Other eligibility criteria apply.

If you qualify for Statutory Sick Pay you should be paid this by your employer from day one of your self-isolation period until you:

  • are fit for work, or
  • your Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance payments begin.

If you are employed and you don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, your employer must issue you with an SSP1 form which explains why. You can use this to support a claim for Universal Credit.

Any time off work due to self-isolation will be deemed as sick leave until you are fit for work or your Maternity Leave is due to start. At this point the usual rules will apply, and Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance replace Statutory Sick Pay for up to the maximum of 39 weeks. In these circumstances your Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance will not start early because coronavirus is not a pregnancy-related illness.

If I am off work due to a pregnancy-related illness close to my due date, will my Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay/Maternity Allowance automatically start early?

Yes. If you are in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay due to a pregnancy-related illness, into the period 4 weeks before your Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance is planned to start, it will start a month in advance. This is the usual rule and is unchanged.

If you are claiming Statutory Sick Pay because of coronavirus, your Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance will not start in advance as this does not count as a pregnancy-related illness.

My employer has told me I have to start my Maternity Leave/Pay early. Is that correct?

You will only need to start your Maternity Leave/Pay early if you are within 4 weeks of your Maternity Leave/Pay start date, and are receiving Statutory Sick Pay due to a pregnancy-related illness.

If you are claiming Statutory Sick Pay because of coronavirus, your Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance will not begin early as this does not count as a pregnancy-related illness.

If my Statutory Maternity Pay/Maternity Allowance starts earlier than I planned, will it be extended at the end?

We currently have no plans to extend Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance for more than 39 weeks. You may be eligible for Universal Credit and/or Employment and Support Allowance if you are unable to work.

Is staying at home because of the government guidance classed as a pregnancy-related illness?

No.

How do I get my MATB1 certificate (proof of pregnancy) if I can’t visit my GP, clinic or midwife, and they can’t visit me?

You do not need to meet a health professional for a MATB1 certificate. Your midwife or doctor can issue your MATB1 and send it to you by post.

I’ve given my MATB1 certificate to my employer and I can’t get it back. What can I use to support my claim for Maternity Allowance?

You could ask your employer to send it to the Department for Work and Pension on your behalf, or you can use the following documents to support your claim for Maternity Allowance:

  • your baby’s birth certificate
  • a letter or statement on appropriately headed paper, signed and/or stamped by a doctor, midwife or a responsible officer of the hospital or home in which the birth took place
  • a certificate of stillbirth issued by a registrar
  • a certificate to confirm that a premature stillbirth was delivered

I have previously been placed on furlough. Will my Statutory Maternity Pay/Maternity Allowance/Maternity Leave be affected?

If your period of Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance begins on or after 25 April 2020, your entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance will be based on full earnings rather than furlough pay. You will get what you would have received if you had not been placed on furlough.

If your period of Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance began before 25 April 2020, your entitlement may be affected. If being placed on furlough reduced your earnings, this may reduce the amount of Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance that you receive.

Your rights to Maternity Leave are not affected by you being placed on furlough.

Will employers still be able to recover the cost of statutory payments from the government?

The normal rules still apply. Employers will be able to recover 92% of the cost of statutory pay from the government, or 103% if they are a small employer.

How do I apply for a Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) during the coronavirus outbreak?

You can start your application for the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) by printing an SSMG claim form

Once you have completed the form post it to ‘Freepost DWP SSMG’. You do not need a postcode or stamp.

Please do not take your completed form to a jobcentre as it may be closed.

How do I get my SSMG claim form signed by a health professional if I am self-isolating, or if I am unable to get an appointment at the surgery?

If you cannot see your doctor or midwife but you have a MATB1 certificate (you will get this from your doctor or midwife no more than 20 weeks before the due date), we will accept that instead. Please send it with your completed SSMG claim form.

If you do not have a MATB1, please return your completed claim form anyway and we will contact you by phone when we are processing your application.

I risk missing the SSMG claim deadline as I am self-isolating and cannot leave the house to post my form. What should I do?

We cannot process your application for a Sure Start Maternity Grant without a completed claim form. But we will still accept your application if we receive the form after the deadline.

Please make a note on the claim form that you were self-isolating due to the coronavirus emergency and post it back to us as soon as you can.

How can I get a copy of an SSMG claim form if I don’t have access to a printer?

Please call the Sure Start Maternity Grant helpline on 0800 169 0140 to request a claim form and we will post one to you.

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Self-employment

My business is no longer providing me with an income because of coronavirus. What can I do?

You may be able to apply for Universal Credit. If you currently receive tax credits from HMRC, please be aware that if you apply for Universal Credit your tax credits award will end immediately, even if you are not eligible to receive Universal Credit. Find out more about tax credits and claiming Universal Credit

Once you have made a Universal Credit claim you may be eligible for a repayable advance

I’m self-employed. Can I get Statutory Sick Pay?

As a self-employed person you cannot currently claim statutory sick pay. You may be eligible for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance

Will I have to sell my business assets if I need to claim Universal Credit?

If you are not winding-up your business, you will not need to sell your business assets to apply for Universal Credit. They will not be taken into account when you make a Universal Credit claim, nor will they be considered when we work out how much Universal Credit you are to entitled to.

Business assets include things like machinery, premises and cash held in your business account.

I’m claiming Universal Credit and want to know what income and expenses I need to report and when

You should report your income online by completing the ‘Report your income and expenses to-do’ on your Universal Credit account. The ‘How to report your income and expenses’ guidance on GOV.UK will help you understand what you need to do if you have self-employed earnings and are claiming Universal Credit.

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