Universal Credit claimants who need to self-isolate as a result of contracting coronavirus or as a precautionary measure will not be sanctioned, the Department of Work and Pensions (DwP) has announced.
Thérèse Coffey, the secretary of state for the DwP said work coaches have been given permission to ‘exercise discretion’ in cases where claimants are unable to attend face-to-face meetings at the jobcentre, which normally could lead to benefits being reduced
‘The department is fully prepared for all eventualities and has conducted extensive planning against reasonable worst-case scenarios. I have been in discussions with the chancellor and will continue to work across government to prepare.
If claimants cannot attend their jobcentre appointment in person because of self-isolation, work coaches can exercise discretion, so claimants should engage with them and they will not be sanctioned – as long they let us know before the appointment.
And as my Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister set out last week ‘nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing’.
That’s why the government’s safety net also extends to those who are self-employed or who work in the gig-economy. They can apply for Universal Credit or new-style ESA. Advances are available for Universal Credit immediately.’
Benefits charity Turn2Us says anyone claiming Universal Credit should use their online journal to explain why they can’t go to their appointment or they could be sanctioned. It is advisable to follow this up with a call.
This comes after the Prime Minister announced Statutory Sick Pay will be made available from day one for those who are self-isolating, instead of day four.
However, according to UNISON, an estimated 2m people currently do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay, the threshold is £118 per week, and could, therefore, lose earnings as a result of the Covid-19 situation.
UNISON warned that, unless rules are changed, zero-hours staff who should be self-isolating will go into work out of fear they will be denied their earnings.
They include social care staff supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society, including the elderly and sick who are most at risk if they become infected.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘People shouldn’t be faced with a choice of making ends meet or following public health advice and helping prevent the spread of the virus. The lives and livelihoods of vulnerable patients and staff must come before profits.
‘The government must bring in emergency measures so these low-paid workers are protected financially, particularly those caring for the most vulnerable in society.
‘It should be made compulsory for employers to give them sick pay, even if they’re not officially eligible.’
Self-isolation applies to people waiting for Covid-19 test result and people who have been in close contact with someone with coronavirus.
It also applies to travellers who have returned from China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand in the past 14 days, and those who have returned from northern Italy, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam since February 19.
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