In this section you'll find information about:
The UK Government have provided guidance and support documentation for each scheme. To access this please go to their website.

If you need to speak to an adviser about an employment query, you can contact the Law Centre on 028 9024 4401 or visit their website.

Vulnerable Workers

Due to the current health crisis it is important to protect those at a higher risk of infection and also those for whom the risk of serious side effects is greater.

Am I classed as Vulnerable?
Employers should seek to identify their vulnerable employees as soon as possible and must look at other options available to staff who have reasonable concerns.  Vulnerable employees are;
  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • those who are pregnant
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight.
  • those who are the sole carer for someone in a vulnerable
  • those who are responsible for a child and are not a key worker and not entitled to childcare under the emergency scheme.
What should my employer do if I am in the vulnerable group?
If you are classed as a vulnerable staff member you can opt to take paid or unpaid leave for the duration of your social distancing, some employers are offering full pay for these groups.  However, you cannot simply refuse to work as this could be deemed unreasonable and you may be subject to disciplinary. 

Statutory Sick Pay whilst in isolation

What is it?
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a non-means tested benefit, eligibility is not based on national insurance contributions but on how much a person earns. If a person qualifies for SSP it is the minimum amount an employer must pay them as long as they qualify. 
How do I qualify?
In order to receive SSP an individual must satisfy the following conditions to qualify for statutory sick pay:
  • Be an employee
  • Be incapable of work:
    • have coronavirus
    • have coronavirus symptoms (high temperature/new continuous cough);
    • live with someone in the household has coronavirus symptoms; or
    • have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or PHA on the 111 helpline.
  • Be a qualifying day (a day you work)
  • Have earnings at least at the Lower Earnings Limit for NIC’s (£120p/w).
How much is it?
SSP is paid at a single rate no matter what hours or salary you usually receive; the amount payable is £95.85 p/w (20/21).  SSP is not a weekly benefit and will be paid for periods less than a week by dividing the daily rate by the amount of qualifying day’s payable. 
How will it be paid?
SSP is paid in the same way and at the same intervals as wages/salary.    An employer may pay above the amount of SSP but this will be outlined in an employee’s contract
How do I apply?
An employee must inform their employer as soon as possible via telephone the reason they will not be working and the period of isolation recommended by PHA (telephone 111 for information).  By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. This does not need to be a fit note issued by a GP or other doctor. If the employer requires confirmation complete the form online https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note  for evidence, an isolation note will then be emailed to you.  As an employee you can claim Statutory Sick Pay from day 1 of self-isolation. If you have a prolonged illness during this period, you may then require a fit note (sick line from your GP).

How long can this be paid for?
A claim for statutory sick pay will cease payment at the end of the period of sickness and can be paid for a maximum of 28 weeks.


My Employer is applying for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, what does that mean?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) has been extended to the 30th September 2021, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. You can find more information here. 

There will be some changes to the scheme from July 2021.

If an employer cannot cover staff costs due to coronavirus, they may be able to access support to continue paying wages.  The employer must discuss with the employee about becoming classified as a furloughed worker. 
What is a 'Furloughed Worker'
An employee who is kept on the employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off. 

Other ‘Furloughed Workers’
The government have extended the furlough scheme to allow those who are most vulnerable and have received shielding letters to be furloughed, this is not automatic and it is still up to the employer whether or not they sign up for the scheme.   For a full list and guidance on the types of workers and employees that can now be furloughed go to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme .

What will I receive?
As a minimum 80% of your salary (max £2,500p/m).   This will be based on the amount of money you received in the previous year (April 19 will give April 20’s salary) or an average of the previous year’s salary. The employer can then claim a refund of up to 80% of the employee’s wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.  Under this scheme, you will remain employed while furloughed and employers can choose to pay the differences between this payment and your salary but they don’t have to.
How do I apply?
Your employer must apply to HMRC for a refund of your wages.
I am only getting 80% of my salary what can I do?
If salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may need to amend your claim to Working Tax Credits/UC or claim UC.
Can I take up employment elsewhere if I am a ‘Furloughed Worker’?
You may be able to take up employment elsewhere depending on the terms and conditions of your current contract of employment.  As you are still an employee you must check with your employer that the work you are taking up is allowed or you could risk losing your status with the company. 

My Employer is not opting into the government scheme, what can I do?
There is no legal obligation to take on this scheme and employers can choose from a range of other options. 

Reduced Pay

Most employers are contractually obliged to make payments to employees on terms that have been agreed as per the contract of employment however this is not always as straight forward as it first may seem.

Can my employer pay me less without consulting me?
An employer can reduce an employees pay but this can only be achieved either through an agreement with the employee or, dismissing the employee under their existing terms and conditions and offering to re-employ them on the same conditions, but with a reduced rate of pay. 

What can I do if my employer has taken this step and has not consulted me?
If an employer unilaterally imposes a pay reduction (other than what is outlined in furloughed workers) you can resign and potentially claim constructive unfair dismissal and/or bring a claim for breach of contract and/or unlawful deductions from wages. 

How can I supplement my Income?
If your wages decrease as a result of reduced pay you should contact an adviser for a benefit check, you may be able to claim Universal Credit to supplement your income or you may receive more support from Working Tax Credits.

Lay-offs and short-time working

A lay-off is not making you redundant, it is saying there is no work for a certain period of time and it is a temporary measure. You will remain an employee unless you resign or are notified that you are no longer employed.  This can happen if your employer experiences a sudden down turn.
Can any employer decide to lay-off staff?
This is not an option for all employers as the right to lay-off or to introduce short-time working must be present in the contract of employment you signed for this step to be taken.  If an employer has taken this decision they should communicate with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.
When can this step be taken?
If the option is available to the employer in your contract they may decide to use it if they need to close down their business for a short time, or they may also ask staff to reduce their contracted hours. 
Will I still be paid during this time?
Unless your contract states otherwise you should be paid your full wages.  Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a 'statutory guarantee payment' from their employer, this is either the number of normal working hours for the day in question by your average hourly rate or £29, whichever is lower.  This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months. To be eligible for this payment you must:
  • have been employed continuously for 1 month (includes part-time workers)
  • have reasonably made sure they are available for work
  • not refuse any reasonable alternative work
  • not have been laid off because of industrial action.
Who pays the 'statutory guarantee payment'?
Your employer should pay you the 'statutory guarantee payment' if you meet the eligibility criteria.
What if the period exceeds 4 weeks?
If the period for which you are temporarily laid off is for more than four weeks in a row, or six weeks in a 13-week period, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.  You must make the claim in writing to your employer, however they can refuse to pay if they believe work is likely to resume within four weeks of the request.

How can I supplement my Income?
If your wages decrease as a result of reduced pay you should contact an adviser for a benefit check, you may be able to claim Universal Credit to supplement your income or you may receive more support from Working Tax Credits.

Enforced Holiday Leave

Your employer also has the right to tell you when to take a holiday if they need to, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.  If an employer does decide to do this, they must tell all staff at least twice as many days before as the number of days they need people to take.  For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.
Extended Holiday Leave
If an employee has failed to use their annual leave entitlement they can now carry that leave across the next leave years.  The new rules will allow an employee to carry as many as 4 weeks of unused leave across 2 leave years, this is to protect not only the employee and their rights but also to protect employers.  Allowing the leave to be spread across 2 years will enable an employer to plan around periods of leave and ultimately an employee must seek approval to use any leave. 


If your employer is forced to make staff redundant they must insure they select employees fairly.  An employer may choose to offer voluntary redundancy packages to staff to at a higher rate than the redundancy pay they are due to reduce the number of staff they must select. 
How are staff selected for redundancy?
If an employer must select staff they can look at a number of different areas, the old adage of ‘last in first out, does not always apply and if this method of selecting redundancy favours one group over another this can be seen as discriminatory.  An employer can assess their staff based on skill, performance, disciplinary record and attendance when selecting for redundancy.
Will I receive notification of redundancy?
If your employer must make redundancies they should consult all employees, this is a legal requirement if there are more than 20 redundancies but is good practice if any are required. 
Will I receive redundancy pay?
If you have 2 years’ service or more (tax years April-April) you may be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment.  This is calculated based on age and years of service. There are strict rules around redundancy and you should seek further advice in relation to your eligibility.  See https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/redundancy-pay for guidance on calculation.  
Employers should not use this crisis to single anyone out unfairly, discrimination laws still apply.  If you feel you have been singled out or treated unfairly because of your race/religion/sex/disability etc. you should raise a grievance with your employer in writing and seek advice on the next steps and your rights.

Advice NI have produced a policy paper - Universal Credit and Redundancy Payments - that you may find useful.

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme has been extended to 30th September 2021. 

The fourth grant will run from February to April 2021 and will cover 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment which is capped at £7,500. It is open to people who became self-employed in the tax year 2019 to 2020. You can find more information here.

The government have announced a fifth grant covering May to September 2021. The amount you receive for the fifth grant will be determined by how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.
What is the Scheme?
The scheme is a grant based system which will give you a payment based on previous tax returns if you have experienced a drop in income as a result of the virus.
Who is eligible?

To be eligible for the scheme you must meet the following:
  • You must be self-employed or a member of a partnership and have traded in the tax years 19/20 and 20/21 and would be trading now if not for Coronavirus.  You can also apply if you have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to Coronavirus.
  • You must also intend to continue trading 
  • You must also have submitted an income tax self-assessment tax return for the year 2019 to 2020 and submitted your tax return by 2 March 2021
  • Your trading profits must be below £50,000 and over half of your income come should be from self-employment.  This is evidenced by your 2019 to 2020 Self Assessment tax return however previous tax returns may also be used if you are not eligible based on your 2019 to 2020 tax return.
You can check your eligibility on the Gov.uk website. You'll need your:
  • Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number
  • National Insurance number
Please check that the contact details HMRC have for you are correct.

How much will I get?
You can receive 80% of your average monthly profits.  The maximum amount you can receive is £2,500 per month for 3 months.
How is this calculated?
HMRC will use the self-assessment tax returns they have for you to calculate an average monthly income.
How do I apply?
You can go online and check your eligibility https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference .  You will need your Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference.  Once eligibility has been established you will be given a date to submit your claim.
Is this repayable?
This payment will be a grant and so is not repayable.
What support can I get now?
In the interim period you should seek a benefit check and an adviser can tell you if you are entitled to Universal Credit or an increase in Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit if your income is already supplemented via these benefits. 

Some information on this page contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.