On the face of it, the world appears rather unstable right now with Coronavirus affecting all aspects of life. The information is overwhelming, and it can be hard to feel on top of the latest advice and regulations as they flood in each day.
That's why we’re cutting through the confusion with a helpful overview of the latest measures in place to help you.
Below, we have collated some useful resources to help you address your most pressing concerns, including information about how we are helping our members. This article outlines some of the key changes that you should be aware of and points you in the right direction for more information and support should you need it.
Please be aware that this is a collation of general advice and, therefore, not all options will be viable for you. There are some useful resources below help you to get you started.
Support for Members
The escalating Coronavirus epidemic will inevitably have a major impact on GMB members and the business community over coming weeks. The virus is not just a serious health concern for many, but it is also impacting some of our members’ finances.
If you’re concerned about your financial situation, please get in touch with us at the earliest opportunity; we have a range of members assistance packages that we can consider in order to provide the support you may need.
The actual support available will depend on individual circumstances and could include some of the following:
- Members will have full access to their credit union savings and if they wish to reduce their regular savings amount or suspend their savings, we will simply place their direct debit on hold for an agreed period.
- Member loans and top up loans on existing loans are available to members.
- Members have the option of reducing their monthly or weekly loan repayments on existing loans for an agreed period.
- We can consider extending the loan repayment period thereby reducing the monthly repayment on existing loans for a temporary basis.
- We can consider supporting payment breaks of up to three months on established member loans.
We encourage members not to cancel direct debits but to contact us first to reduce or stop regular direct debits. This will ensure that we can quickly re-establish direct debit payments when agreed with the minimum hassle for both parties when this epidemic is over.
Members should also consider approaching their other creditors, utility companies and mortgage providers to request payment reductions or holidays.
GMB Coronavirus Hub
Over on our main union site, you can find the answers to FAQs on Coronavirus and the latest briefings from GMB.
This site is being regularly updated as the situation is changing so frequently, so be sure to keep checking back!
Typically, your largest financial outgoing will be your monthly mortgage payment. Therefore, taking a break from your mortgage – with a mortgage holiday of up to three months – can act as welcome financial relief.
Am I Eligible?
Whether you are eligible to take a payment holiday, for how long, and the conditions you must meet depends on:
Your mortgage contract
Your financial circumstance
It is best to contact your bank directly to discuss a mortgage payment holiday with them.
What About Those Who Rent?
The government has announced a package of measures to protect renters that may be affected by Coronavirus and a subsequent loss of earnings. The emergency legislation means:
- You cannot be evicted from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
- Landlords can take out a mortgage holiday on their Buy to Let mortgage
Don’t be afraid to claim SSP
Did you know that, if you’re self-isolating because of COVID-19, you can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 per week? It’s your right to do so whilst you’re temporarily unable to work.
When can I claim SSP?
New legislation has been brought forward to give you access to SSP from the first day you’re self-isolating and cannot work. This new legislation came into action on 13.03.20 and overrides the previous 4-day caveat.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
HMRC have announced that they will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs up to a cap of £2,500pm as part of their plan to support businesses during the outbreak. As a result, more jobs should be protected.
Who counts as a furloughed worker?
A furloughed worker is someone who is still employed but not working. The purpose of this scheme is to help businesses to continue paying employees that would have otherwise been laid off.
Although it is your employer that should apply for the grant under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it’s worth being aware of. If you believe that you are entitled to this support, we recommend that you contact your HR department directly to raise the issue.
Changes to IR35
Last week, the Treasury confirmed that they would postpone IR35 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This means that businesses now have until April 2021 to address the changes necessary.
What is IR35?
IR35 is designed to combat tax avoidance by “disguised employees”.
Under new rules, every medium and large private sector business in the UK will become responsible for setting the tax status of any employee that they hire – including contract and temporary workers.
The new rules will apply to businesses with either:
- 50+ employees
- Turnover of more than £10.2m / annum
With recent events prompting many companies to review their policies and contracts, now is a great time to ensure your business is addressing IR35 ahead of the changes that come into place next April (2021).
The Good Work Plan
As of April 2020, The Good Work Plan comes into place. This is a plan that sets out the government’s vision for the future of the UK labour market. It seeks to “reward people for hard work” in a bid to boost productivity and earnings in the UK.
The new plan details how to address issues in our labour market, such as:
- The implications of new forms of work
- The rise of digital platforms
- Impacts of new working models
The Good Work Plan also draws on recommendations about:
- Employment status
- Agency workers
- Increasing transparency in the labour market
- The enforcement of employment rights
If you’re unsure how you should be responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, please refer to GOV.UK platform here.
There is further government guidance for you to read through as an employee too – you can access this here.
It is well recognised that isolation and the stress of the outbreak may be triggering for many, leading to a decline in mental health.
In order to help you address this, we’ve attached some useful resources that help you become aware of your own mental state and some handy tips that may help you look after yourself during this difficult time.
Discover how you should be looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak here.
The mental health charity, MIND, have also released some support and resources to help you during this time. You can access this here.
Working from Home
If Coronavirus has caused you to relocate and work from home, you may find the resources below helpful. Hopefully, they can support the transition from office to home and help you settle into your new work environment as swiftly as possible.
Discover some tips for creating a positive environment to work from here.
You can also check out some top tips for working from home here.
If you have any concerns or questions about your current financial situation, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our website here to learn about our Credit Union and how we support our members.