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Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Rights for carers and clinically extremely vulnerable

Last updated: 11 Feb 2021

*PLEASE FOLLOW ANY GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE OR GUIDANCE SPECIFIC TO YOUR LOCAL AREA ON THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AS IT IS CHANGING DAILY*

Covid-19 presents a higher risk to certain individuals and categories of clinically vulnerable people have been identified.  These include the over 70s, those with certain underlying health conditions and those who are pregnant. A further group of people are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (“CEV”) on account of certain existing health conditions. CEV people were officially notified of this by relevant health authorities and have been advised to ‘shield’.

Shielding is a new concept and the legal rights of those who are or have been ‘shielding’ and those who care for or live with those shielding raise some tricky areas of employment and health and safety law which have not been tested in the courts and Tribunals.

This article covers FAQs on coronavirus for clinically extremely vulnerable,  carers and those who who live with someone who is vulnerable to coronavirus. We raise some legal points below to discuss with your employer if they are refusing to support you if you are CEV, if you care for someone who is CEV and/or where your child is CEV.

You might also want to look at our other coronavirus pages:

Furlough information sheets

This document of key information about childcare, caring, the clinically extremely vulnerable and furlough might be useful to show to your employer.

Key Info for Employers

What to do if your employer refuses to furlough you.

Key info for employees

Template letter to request furlough

This letter provide a template you can use to request furlough for health reasons if you are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Furlough for clinically (extremely) vulnerable

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable individuals

I am Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to Coronavirus. Do I have any additional rights?

Disability Discrimination If you are shielding and classed as clinically extremely vulnerable you most likely have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act and you may have additional protections under disability discrimination law.  However, not all who are in the “clinically vulnerable” category will be disabled, some will have a disability but many won’t.

Tribunals will need to take into account the impact of Covid-19 when deciding whether someone who is clinically vulnerable qualifies as being disabled under the Equality Act 2010.  Workers may be able to argue that a physical impairment that makes them vulnerable to Covid-19, now should be viewed as a substantially adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, because of the need to take steps to avoid infection.

This is always down to the individual circumstances and if you are considering bringing a claim, we recommend that you seek specific legal advice in order to fully assess whether you are eligible and which claims you may be able to bring and the procedure for bringing the claim. Your employer will need to consider your own varying individual circumstances and there is no definite answer.

What are the current rules about work for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable?

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable

England is in national lockdown, the advice is for all clinically extremely vulnerable to shield.  This means not to attend work or school.

The latest government guidance states you are strongly advised to work from home. If you are CEV and cannot work from home, then you should not attend work. You may want to speak to your employer about taking on an alternative role or change your working patterns temporarily to enable you to work from home where possible.

If you need support to work at home you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work will provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.

You are also able to be furloughed if you are eligible. The guidance states employees “can be furloughed, if they are unable to work because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance”.   See our furlough pages for more information. The furlough scheme (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) has been extended until the end of April 2021. You should have a conversation with your employer and explain you are able to be furloughed for this reason.

If you aren’t eligible for furlough you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The formal shielding letter you receive will act as evidence for your employer and the Department of Work and Pensions that you are advised to shield and may be eligible for SSP or ESA. See our pages on financial support which may be available. 

Someone in my household is extremely vulnerable

The government guidance also states that “members of the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home, in line with the wider rules set out in the national lockdown guidance.

There is separate guidance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Keep up-to-date with the separate guidance since it is changing daily.

In Scotland, shielding advice depends on your area and COVID protection level. From 5 January, the mainland moved into a temporary lockdown with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should work from home if possible, but if you are unable to work from home you should not go to work. The Chief Medical Officer has written to everyone on the shielding list on 4 January to set out the advice, which can be used as a fit note as long as lockdown restrictions are in place. In Level 3 areas, the advice is that you can attend work and should speak to your employer to ensure all protections are in place.

In Wales, from 22 December 2020, the advice to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable is to stay at home and not attend work. Letters were issued by the Chief Medical Officer confirming the advice, and can be used as fit notes.

In Northern Ireland, from 26 December, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend the workplace.

I am Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and my employer is requiring me to return to work. What are my options?

You need to alert your employer to the fact you are clinically extremely vulnerable. You may need to provide them with a copy of your letter from the NHS, explain that you are CEV and that the government guidance is that you must shield and work from home where possible.

If you need support to work at home you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work will provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.

You can be furloughed if you are eligible. The government guidance states your: “employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed if they are unable to work because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance.”

See our furlough pages for more information. You can be furloughed whether you are on a full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contract, but you must have been on your employer’s payroll before 30 October 2020. Your employer can furlough you even if you have not been furloughed before.

If you are CEV and are being required to return to work in circumstances where it is not safe for you to do so and/or where you reasonably believe it is not safe to return (e.g. because the workplace itself is not safe or potentially because you cannot commute to work safely) then potential claims may arise if you refuse to return and are subjected to a detriment (for example if your pay is withheld) or if you are dismissed. We have more information on health and safety and  return to work here

If your employer refuses to furlough you where you cannot work from home and pays SSP only rather than a higher sum, you may be able to argue that you have been subjected to a detriment (being paid lower pay) and have claims under health and safety and disability discrimination law

If your employer is not willing or able to make the necessary safety arrangements to allow you to work from home (where this is possible) this may also give rise to potential claims for disability discrimination, breach of the implied terms of trust and confidence and/or give rise to potential constructive unfair dismissal claims. We always recommend taking legal advice before taking action for constructive dismissal as they are very difficult claims to bring. 

In the first instance we would always recommend having an informal discussion with your line manager and/or HR, explain you have sought guidance from a charity and send them the guidance. 

If you are unable to resolve the issue informally, or if you think you have been treated unfairly (e.g. your employer unreasonably refuses to furlough you), you should consider raising a formal grievance.

You can find more information on how to raise a grievance here

It is always advisable to try and resolve things amicably, as formal processes can damage your relationship with your employer. There is some legal insight into grievances and tips on how to engage with your employer before it reaches this point here

However, as a last resort you may have certain claims against your employer.

The legislation that links to the potential claims that you may have include health & safety related detriment/dismissal claims under s44 and s100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (“ERA”), whistleblowing detriment or dismissal claims under s47B and s103A of the ERA, claims arising from a breach of trust and confidence and disability discrimination claims under the Equality Act. See our return to work section for more information.

We would recommend that you seek specialist legal advice if you are considering submitting a claim as the process is complex. You should be aware that there are strict time limitations to bring a claim, and generally a claim must be brought within three months less a day from the act complained of (e.g. for discrimination, you must be a claim within three months less a day of the act of discrimination). You can find more information on starting a claim here.  

I’m a critical key worker but my child is in the ‘high risk’ CEV group for coronavirus. Do I have to send them to school?

As we are now in national lockdown, the advice is for all clinically extremely vulnerable to again shield.  This means not to attend work or school. 

The government has said that if you are able to care for your child at home, you should continue doing so. You do not have to send your child to school if you do not need, or want to. 

If your child is in the ‘high risk’ group for coronavirus, you should have received a letter from the NHS to tell them that they need to be shielding.  

If you are eligible you can be furloughed if you care for someone who is vulnerable to coronavirus. The government guidance for employers states the “employee can be furloughed, if they are unable to work because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance  or unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19).” 

Once lockdown is lifted, we expect the government advice for students in the clinically extremely vulnerable group to again return to school as was the case previously. This was due to greater evidence showing that there is a very low risk of children becoming very unwell from COVID-19, even those with existing health conditions.

If you are an employee, you have a right to take time off work if there is nobody else to help with childcare. See our question on going into work for more information.

I care for a vulnerable person who is supposed to be ‘shielding’. What does this mean for our family?

Shielding is a measure recommended by the government to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, by minimising interaction between those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and others. See the FAQ above: What are the rules for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable? The NHS directly contacts people who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable to provide further advice. You may have received a letter yourself, either as someone in the clinically extremely vulnerable group or as the named carer of someone else who is. 

On 4th January, the Prime Minister announced that those who are at the highest risk of COVID-19 will again need to shield. 

This may mean you are uncertain whether to go to work or not if you could expose the vulnerable person you live with to COVID-19. 

If you are eligible you can be furloughed if you are Clinically Extremely vulnerable or if you care for someone who is vulnerable to coronavirus. The government guidance for employers states the “employee can be furloughed, if they are unable to work because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance  or unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19).” 

The guidance for employees can be found here and states you can be furloughed if “caring responsibilities arising from Coronavirus (COVID-19) mean you are unable to work (including from home) or working reduced hours.. Examples of caring responsibilities include caring for children who are at home as a result of school or childcare facilities closing a vulnerable individual in your household.”

We recommend you show your employer the guidance on furlough and explain that you are concerned that by attending work you will increase the risk to the CEV person and ask to be furloughed. 

Special leave:

If you can take special leave (that your employer has agreed specifically because of the coronavirus or as part as a more general kind of compassionate leave policy that some employers have), then this could be a good option.

Public Funding

If your employer receives public funding which is used for your salary e.g. schools or civil service, then your employer may not be able to use the furlough scheme. We understand that this is because it would amount to a form of double accounting as the role is already funded by the public purse.

However, the government guidance states that if your employer receives public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, employers should continue to pay their staff and not furlough them.

The implication of this is that you could ask your manager or HR department to grant you “special leave” for this time and pay you your salary as normal for the time you have had to take off for COVID related reasons. You are in circumstances where you could request to be furloughed (but for the public funding exemption) under the guidance for employees. 

If they refuse to do this, you may be able to argue that this amounts to indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex and/or disability. 

NHS

There is information on the NHS approach here: https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/staff-terms-and-conditions/staff-terms-and-conditions-faqs/pay

You may want to alert your manager to the above guidance to ask that you are paid for the time you need to take off for childcare or caring reasons related to Covid.

If you are a member of a union, you could ask for their support too.

Shielding measures are changing frequently in different areas/at different times, so you should check the guidance for where you live.

Potential Claims if your Employer refuses to furlough you for caring

It could be argued that an employer’s policy to refuse to furlough employees for caring responsibilities will have a disproportionate impact on women and could amount to indirect sex discrimination. Indirect sex discrimination is where an employer unjustifiably applies a general rule (eg no furlough) which puts women (more than men) at a particular disadvantage. This is because women still tend to have the greater share of childcare obligations. 

If the person you are caring for is disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act and your employer refuses to furlough you where you are unable to work due to caring responsibilities for someone who is disabled, or where you are CEV and disabled and your employer refuses to furlough you, this could amount to disability discrimination. 

Where a woman has her request to be furloughed due to childcare turned down, she may be able to claim indirect sex discrimination under section 19 of the Equality Act 2010. Men cannot usually claim indirect sex discrimination, because this concept depends on showing that one gender (in this case, women) tends to be disadvantaged more than the other by the employer’s rule. 

You should take legal advice before trying to make this type of claim. 

Taking time off work and working from home

Do I need to attend work if I am clinically extremely vulnerable (or someone in my household is)?

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable

England is in national lockdown, the advice is for all clinically extremely vulnerable to shield.  This means not to attend work or school.

The latest government guidance states you are strongly advised to work from home. If you are CEV and cannot work from home, then you should not attend work. You may want to speak to your employer about taking on an alternative role or change your working patterns temporarily to enable you to work from home where possible.

If you have concerns about attending work, or you cannot make alternative arrangements, your employer should be able to furlough you. 

In Scotland, shielding advice depends on your area and COVID protection level. From 5 January, the mainland moved into a temporary lockdown with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should work from home if possible, but if you are unable to work from home you should not go to work. The Chief Medical Officer has written to everyone on the shielding list on 4 January to set out the advice, which can be used as a fit note as long as lockdown restrictions are in place. In Level 3 areas, the advice is that you can attend work and should speak to your employer to ensure all protections are in place.

In Wales, from 22 December 2020, the advice to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable is to stay at home and not attend work. Letters were issued by the Chief Medical Officer confirming the advice, and can be used as fit notes.

In Northern Ireland, from 26 December, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend the workplace.

If someone in your household is clinically extremely vulnerable

The government’s guidance is that you should work from home unless it is impossible to do so. You can ask your employer if working from home is possible and explain that you have a clinically extremely vulnerable person in your household. 

If there is no alternative, the government guidance is that you can still go to work if your employer takes the required steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Your employer should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work.

Your employer can furlough you if you are unable to work (including from home) due to caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, such as caring for a vulnerable person in the household. See our furlough page for more information.

You could argue that as your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety and if one of your ‘dependants’ (family members like children who live with you and need you) has a pre-existing condition which would make them vulnerable to coronavirus, it would be a breach of your employment contract (more specifically, a breach of the mutual duty of trust and confidence) to force you to come to work. You could use this argument to attempt to negotiate paid leave, but we can’t guarantee that this would be successful.

You may be able to take time off for dependantsparental leave, or annual leave. See our questions on taking time off work if someone in your household is extremely vulnerable, or if you cannot work for caring commitments for more information. 

You might be able to refuse to go back to work if you think it would expose you to a serious and imminent danger (this protection comes from sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996). See the answer in the return to work section (‘If I think my workplace is unsafe because of coronavirus, do I have to go to work?’) for details. Remember, the serious and imminent danger doesn’t have to be to you as the employee – it could be to “others”, including members of the public in some cases. This might mean that you can refuse to work because of a serious imminent threat to someone in your household, but the law is not clear on this. Your employer, or the Employment Tribunal, might take a different view. So you should be cautious about using this argument.

Whether or not you have a right to refuse to go to work will depend very much on your individual situation. For example, is there anything you could do to reduce the risk to the person who is, or was previously shielding, and still go to work (such as following the government advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable)?

Template letters: If your employer is asking you to return to work and you have concerns about your health and safety, you can use our template letter for employees and letter for workers (depending on your employment status) to raise your concerns and discuss staying off work.

 

Employers are under a duty to take all reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus, and therefore if you cannot work from home you can still go to work.

I cannot work from home and my employer is asking me to come to work, can I take leave?

The government advice is that your employer must make your workplace COVID secure by putting in place appropriate health and safety measures

Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety. This duty doesn’t just apply to you, it can apply to the wider public (and anyone you live with). If someone you live with or care for is vulnerable to coronavirus, you may have a right to stay off work for health & safety reasons.

Our page on health & safety and returning to work has information and a sample letter you can use if you do not feel safe returning to work. Do remember that your condition that led you to shield may also be a disability under the Equality Act. If so, your employer would also be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

If you are being forced back to work without proper safeguards in place, you should check if you have access to legal services through Trade Union membership or legal expenses insurance (often through your home contents insurance).

If you are concerned about attending work, and want to take leave, you may have the following options.

Furlough

You may be able to be furloughed. If your employer is asking you to return to work, you can ask your employer to furlough you if you are extremely clinically vulnerable or caring for someone who is. 

See our furlough page for more information.

Unfortunately, there is no automatic right to be furloughed and your employer can refused to do so. If your employer refuses to keep you on furlough or put you back on furlough, you may be able to argue that they are discriminating against you – see the question on discrimination on our furlough page. 

Sick pay

In England, if you are shielding, then you can receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for shielding.

From 2 December, advice on shielding for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable depends on local restrictions. Shielding has been paused in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

If you are not advised to shield, you may no longer be eligible for SSP, unless shielding is extended or reintroduced in your area.

It is important to keep up to date with the separate advice for EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland. Details of local restrictions for England can be found here.

If you are unable to work because you are ill, or because your GP thinks it is not safe for you to work, you may still be eligible for SSP, but you will need to follow your employer’s sickness absence procedure and may need to provide medical evidence.

Special leave

Your employer may agree to grant you ‘special leave’. This leave could be due to coronavirus or as part of your employer’s policy on compassionate leave. 

If your employer receives public funding which is used for your salary, then your employer may not use the furlough scheme. They should grant you “special leave” for this time and pay you your salary as normal for the time you have had to take off for COVID related reasons. 

See our furlough page for more information.

Annual leave

Your employer may also allow you to take some annual leave. The benefit of this is that it is paid, but bear in mind that your employer can refuse if it would be particularly disruptive to the business.

Time off for dependants and parental leave

If the person in your household that is clinically extremely vulnerable depends on you for their care, you could also take time off for dependants or parental leave.

Have a look at our question on taking time off work for caring responsibilities for more information.

Remember that when shielding measures are not in place, you may still be able to make arguments about their need for care, or that there remains a risk to that person if you return to work.

Financial support

If you are suddenly left without income, there may be certain benefits that you could claim. Check our page on financial support for working families during the Covid-19 crisis for more information.

When shielding comes to an end, can I still stay off work?

It is important you keep up-to-date with the differing advice in EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland, and for your local area.

Details of local restrictions for England can be found here.  When shielding comes to an end it does not mean that you have to go back to work if you or your family member are still CEV.  Hopefully once the CEV are vaccinated the risk will be greatly reduced. 

The official advice is to work from home wherever possible, or to make arrangements with your employer to reduce the health risk.

If shielding comes to an end before you or the person you care for has been vaccinated, you may be able to stay off work for the following reasons:

  • Health & safety: You have a right to stay off work if you have a reasonable belief that there is a serious or imminent risk to your health and safety. The risk does not have to be to you, it can also be to someone you live with or care for. See our return to work and health & safety page for more information. 
  • If you are looking after someone: you could take time off for dependants, parental leave and annual leave (see the question on taking time off work for caring responsibilities for an overview or our employment rights page for more information)
  • If you are extremely vulnerable: check the ‘shielding and vulnerable people’ section on our return to work and health & safety page.
  • Special leave/compassionate leave/carer’s leave: check your employment contract to see if your employer might offer a different kind of leave for carers or because of coronavirus
  • Request to work from home: you may be able to request to work from home or change your responsibilities at work to make the workplace safer for you. See the section on requesting flexible working on our return to work and health & safety page.

Do I have a right to take time off work to look after someone who depends on me for their care?

If you look after someone whose care arrangements have fallen through because of coronavirus and there is nobody else to help for the time being, the first step would be to talk to your employer and explain your situation.

Flexible working

You may be able to work from home or reduce your hours. If you think you may need a medium to long-term adjustment to your working pattern, you could consider putting in a request for flexible working. We’ve created a template letter to request flexible working during coronavirus that you can use.

Furlough

You are able to be furloughed, if eligible, if you have caring responsibilities because of COVID.  Ask your employer to be furloughed if you are unable to work because of your caring responsibilities. See our furlough page for more information.

Time off for dependants, parental leave and other leave

If you need to take time off work to look after someone, you may be able to use:

Read our question on taking time off work for someone who depends on you more information. 

Financial support

If you are suddenly left without income, there may be certain benefits that you could claim. Check our page on financial support for more information. 

If you provide 35 hours or more per week of care to someone who is receiving Attendance Allowance, the middle or higher rate care component of DLA or the daily living component of PIP, you could also get Carer’s Allowance. This may apply even if you cannot normally get it, if you are currently not earning, or earning less than £128 a week.

Carers UK has produced some useful information and FAQs for carers about coronavirus. 

Scope has produced guidance on how to arrange food and essentials for the person you care for.

My employer has said I can’t work from home because I care for someone who is disabled, is that discrimination?

It is true that, when you are working, your employer has the right to expect that you are devoting your attention to your work rather than to caring for someone.

However, this is an exceptional situation and many employers are exercising common sense and flexibility to allow employees to reduce or vary their working hours or pattern to enable them to work around caring needs.  If you think this is an option in your role, then you should raise that with your employer. Explain how the pattern could work for you and them.

Direct disability discrimination by association

You have the right not to be treated less favourably because you are associated with someone who has a disability. If your employer is letting other people work from home, but they are not letting you work from home just because you care for someone with a disability, then this may be direct disability discrimination by association. 

Indirect sex discrimination

If you are a woman, you can also argue that your employer not letting you work from home is indirect sex discrimination. It is still the case that women tend to shoulder more childcare and caring responsibilities than men. So if employers are inflexible with caring commitments, it is likely to have a disproportionate impact on women and could therefore be indirect sex discrimination. But unlike direct disability discrimination by association, an employer can, in theory, justify indirect discrimination if there is a genuine business need for their actions. This is because indirect discrimination can be justified, whereas direct discrimination cannot. See our page on flexible working and the law for more information. 

Furlough

Can I ask my employer to put me on furlough if I cannot come into work because I care for someone who is vulnerable?

The government guidance on furlough makes it clear that employees can be furloughed if they are unable to work due to caring commitments. Please see the guidance here.

If you have returned to work from furlough: if you were previously on furlough, and you have returned to work, you can ask your employer to put you back on furlough if you can no longer continue working because of childcare or caring commitments.

Remember your employer still has to agree to keep you on furlough or put you back on furlough. It is therefore important to make clear to your employer that furloughing will not have a detrimental impact on them because they can recover 80% of your wages from the government. They can top up the extra 20% of your wages, but they do not have to.

If you have childcare and/or caring responsibilities and your employer refuses to place you on furlough or flexible furlough, please see our information sheet on what to do if your employer refuses to furlough you.

If your employer is refusing to put you on furlough even though they are able to, you may be able to argue that they are discriminating against you – see the question on discrimination on our furlough page. 

If your employer refuses furlough, you may be able to take some other form of leave. See the questions on taking time off work for caring responsibilities for more information.

If the person you are looking after is particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, you may also be able to stay off work for health and safety reasons – read our health and safety and return to work page for more information. 

Benefits

What benefits can I claim if I’m off work to care for someone?

We have a separate webpage on financial support that is available if your income has gone down because of covid-19.

If you provide 35 hours or more of care per week to someone who is claiming PIP daily living component,  DLA middle or higher rate care component, or Attendance Allowance, you may be able to get Carer’s Allowance. Temporarily, if you are already getting Carer’s Allowance and can’t provide care due to the symptoms of Covid-19, it won’t stop (whether it is you or the disabled person who has symptoms). In addition, the DWP will currently count emotional support towards the 35 hours of care. Claiming Carer’s Allowance can sometimes affect the benefits of the person you are caring for, so you are advised to seek benefits advice before applying.

If you are already claiming benefits (in particular Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, Housing Benefit and income-based Employment and Support Allowance and income-based Jobseekers Allowance), your award for these benefits may increase while your income is lower if you are off work. However, you will have to ask for this to be done, and it is not straightforward, particularly in the case of tax credits (where you may risk being overpaid).
 
If you are not already claiming any other benefits, you may be able to claim Universal Credit if you are on unpaid leave or only receiving Statutory Sick Pay. Beware that making a claim for Universal Credit will replace any existing claims you have for working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based employment and support allowance and income-based jobseeker’s allowance. So if you are already claiming any of these benefits, you should seek advice from a benefits expert before deciding to claim Universal Credit instead.

For more information on other benefits that might be available to you, have a look at our financial support page.

To check your eligibility for benefits, use this online benefits calculator on the Entitled To website.

Where can I go for more help?

We have created a number of articles on topics relating to coronavirus. These are linked at the very top of this page.

To find out what government schemes will help if work has been affected by Covid-19, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have created a decision tree to help you navigate what you may be entitled to, including whether you are eligible to be furloughed.

Links to further resources:

  • Working Families’ Waving not drowning network for carers, which includes a newsletter and a Facebook peer-to-peer support group. 
  • Contact’s coronavirus page, which includes useful links tips on looking after yourself and educational and physiotherapy resources for disabled young people
  • Scope’s coronavirus information, which includes, among other things, information on how to arrange food and essentials during coronavirus
  • Carers UK’s help and advice section for coronavirus, which includes a large FAQ section and measures you can take to keep your loved ones safe
  • The government guidance on schools and coronavirus for parents (England only)
  • Royal Voluntary Service: If you are caring for someone vulnerable, you can ask a volunteer to go shopping for them or collect their prescription. The person you are caring for can also talk to a volunteer on the phone if they are feeling lonely. You can also make a referral for yourself, if this support helps you to continue in your caring role. Check how to get help from an NHS volunteer on the Royal Voluntary Service website, or call them on 0808 1963646.

This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

Advice contact form

The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.