During these times of uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus, those in the electrical trade may find not only their business and work being negatively impacted, but also their mental health. The Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) is keen to outline what support it can provide to industry members. Please read on for our 10th September update.
We understand this is a complex and difficult time for everyone. We are living in a time of great uncertainty and increasing worry about our health and livelihoods. We understand that the effect of COVID-19 on industry and income will be great and we will all be affected. In times of darkness and insecurity we want to let our Industry members know, that we will be here to help you.
Mental Health Support
The New York Times offers an interesting article on ‘How to cope when everything keeps changing’ - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/smarter-living/how-to-cope-when-everything-keeps-changing.html
Important reminders collected from MoneySavingExpert:
- Returning to the office - are you due £6 for each week you worked from home? For the last five months, millions have had to work from home, yet gradually office work is returning for some.
For those required to work from home, if costs such as energy or heating increased, you're due some money. Full details and help claiming in MSE link Working from home - claim tax back blog, but in brief...
You're allowed to claim £6/wk tax-free from your employer to cover extra costs. Yet as most employers don't pay that, you can instead claim a tax break worth up to £2.40/wk. As you don't want to claim that too often, the perfect time is when you're returning to the office (or annually if you always work from home).
- Are you one of possibly millions missing out on the 2nd self-employed grant wrongly thinking 'it's not me'? You've a month left. 800,000 people eligible for the 1st self-employment grant didn't claim it by the time it closed. That figure's likely far larger for the 2nd one, which is open now, and closes on 19 Oct.
Do read the MSE full help on the 2nd Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant, which includes details on who's eligible. In brief, you can be due up to a max £6,570, made up of 3mths' worth of up to 70% of your average trading profits (if that's under £50,000/yr) over a period of up to 3yrs. As it's a grant you NEEDN'T PAY IT BACK, though it is taxable.
To claim, you need to declare your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus since 14 Jul. This doesn't need to mean a total disaster - it could be, say, a reduction in trade, staff illness or extra PPE costs. And the grant is binary - you get the full amount you qualify for or nowt. Read the MSE link Can you declare your business is affected by coronavirus? guide, which takes you through it.
- Struggling with no or a low income? Don't assume there's no help - check what you're entitled to. The key benefit available is universal credit, a means-tested benefit to help low earners meet basic living costs, which can be worth £1,500+/mth for some. Recently a few people have said to me either "I won't get that" or "I tried a year ago and didn't get it". That's a dangerous assumption.
The criteria and payout rates were improved to help during the pandemic, so it's at least worth checking out. As eligibility criteria are complex, use this 10-min Benefits Calculator tool to see if you likely qualify and read their Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits guide.
- Furlough pay is still a MINIMUM 80% of your salary up to £2,500/mth, plus pension contributions. Since April, 9.6m roles have been furloughed - this is where your job's put on standby and you get up to 80% of your salary, up to £2,500/mth.
From this month though, the Govt is only covering 70% of salaries and employers are being asked to pay the rest, plus national insurance, and pension contributions. Yet you should still get the 80% - do ensure your employer's paying you what you're due.
Plus if your employer asks you to work, they should be giving you full pay for the hours you do, and you only get furlough pay for the rest of your normal hours that you don't do (if any). Check your employer's playing by the furlough rules in this detailed guide.
- Employer 'making' you go back to the office - do you have rights if you don't want to or can't go back? It's always best, if possible, to start by being open and honest with your employer to see if a middle ground is possible. But if it's genuinely made things 'Covid Secure' and insists you return to work, you've few rights.
Max Winthrop of the Law Society's Employment Law Committee told MSE: "If you're healthy, have no special risks through an underlying condition and can travel safely to and from the office, refusing to work is usually difficult, and could lead to a disciplinary, including dismissal."
Ruby Dinsmore, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, added: "If, for example, you usually travel by heavily-populated public transport, see if flexible working or travelling out of peak times works for both you and your employer."
However, if you're medically vulnerable or feel you could be in serious danger by returning, then you've increased rights to appeal to your employer. For more help, this Citizens Advice Q&A is a good place to start.
- Self-employed/got a small business and need support, even for your income? Bounce back loans available until 4 Nov. Small businesses, including limited companies, affected by coronavirus can apply for one-off £2,000-£50,000 loans. The loans are INTEREST AND REPAYMENT-FREE for the first year.
Plus, especially important for those who've missed out on other help, in many cases they can be used to support your income (I know this is a loan, not a grant, so not the same, but my aim's to show you all the options). As things currently stand, they're available till 4 Nov. Full info, including eligibility and how to apply, in this Bounce Back Loans guide.
The new rules, which will come into effect by September, will mean full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes and commercial and retail properties can be quickly repurposed to help revive our high streets and town centres. This will help our high streets and town centres to provide more space for new businesses and help them to adapt quickly to what consumers and businesses need. Homeowners will also be able to add up to 2 additional storeys to their home to create new homes or more living space for growing families through a fast track approval process, with a requirement to carefully consider the impact on neighbours and the appearance of the extension.
Green home grants
The government grant will aim to cover at least two thirds of the cost of improvement, up to £5,000 per household, but some low-income households will be able to get the entire cost covered, up to £10,000. You need to also be installing insulation or low carbon heating at the same time to be eligible, however, and the vouchers cannot be used to replace what is already in the property. You can capitalise and get improvements on everything from double or triple glazing to energy efficient heating controls, and even insulation. Announcing the scheme in the Commons, Mr Sunak said: "From September, homeowners and landlords will be able to apply for vouchers to make their homes more energy efficient and create local jobs."
Extension on evictions
A four-week extension of the eviction ban has been confirmed, after the Government was warned that hundreds of thousands of renters could lose their homes. Charities have said they fear mass evictions around Christmas if the Government does not give judges powers to stop automatic evictions of tenants affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Renters have been protected during the crisis by a ban announced in March and extended in June, but it was due to end in England and Wales next week. If lifted without extra protection, charities have warned that tens of thousands of outgoing tenants could be unable to access affordable homes, prompting a "devastating homelessness crisis". The move was confirmed in a letter to judges by Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton after a meeting of the civil procedure rule committee (CPRC), which makes rules for county courts. He said the extension would last until September 20.
Face mask guidance for children
Further guidance on face coverings in England's schools has been published by the Government, which sets out when they are required and pupils that are exempt. It says that in local lockdown areas face coverings should be worn by staff and students moving around schools in communal areas and corridors from September 1. Should new local restrictions be imposed, schools will need to communicate "quickly and clearly" the new arrangements to staff, parents and pupils.
It says that all schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed - such as when the layout of a school makes it difficult to do so. Where a student or staff member is struggling to access a mask, or if it soiled or unsafe, the guidance says that schools should take steps to have a "small contingency supply" available, adding no-one should excluded on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering. Exemptions to the new measures include those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if a person is speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.
- The charity will consider providing small grants in immediate and urgent need.
- Provide advice to industry individuals regarding financial relief strategies and support services available to them.
- Provide support to employees worried about income, having to work and/or losing their employment.
- Strategies to implement immediately to soften the financial burden i.e. mortgage/rent holiday’s, freezing of gym memberships and others.
- Signposting to other welfare services and charities for support.
- Review of individual welfare benefits, your eligibility and support with the application process were necessary.
- Food vouchers if in immediate and urgent need.
Mental Health Support
- Self-isolation is likely to have a negative impact on our mental health and it is important we remain aware of this and try to buffer against it by putting support strategies in place. The EIC can recommend support strategies to help you cope through this time of isolation.
- Telephone and skype counselling are available to industry members.
- Psychiatric assessments for complex mental health issues are available to industry members.
- Signposting to other mental health support services and online services.
Symptoms, hygiene and self-isolation
- The EIC is recommending that individuals with pre-existing health conditions i.e. undergoing cancer treatment, heart disease, diabetes and others should self-isolated and managers need to be informed as soon as possible if you care for or reside with a family member or person who is deemed as having pre-existing health conditions. The EIC can provide further guidance to you if you feel unsure as to how to communicate this to your employer.
- Hygiene tips and resources
- Managing self-isolation