Coronavirus (Covid-19): Update 17/03/2020


Statement from Ben Lake MP:

"I have received a number of messages from individuals and businesses concerned about the financial impact that the unfolding crisis will have on them, and several questions about the assistance that is available to them.

We are expecting the UK Chancellor to announce further measures this evening to mitigate the financial impact that the new social-distancing measures will have on the economy, and as soon as I have further detail I will provide a further update. It is important to stress that I believe the Government needs to go much further to offer support to those affected by COVID-19, and I am making these representations to the UK Government.

It is likely that the situation will develop further, but what follows is the information that we have to date:


Last week, the UK Government introduced a new law in relation to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which was effective from March 13th. In summary, the law:
• Extended SSP to those who are self-isolating in line with Government health advice; and
• It also adjusted Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit rules to ensure that people who are not able to receive SSP are entitled to payments from day 1 of isolation, and the self-employed or those on zero-hour contracts are able to receive payments from these schemes for periods of self-isolation.

The UK Government intends to provide certainty to eligible individuals that they will be entitled to receive SSP if they are unable to work because they are following government advice in relation to COVID-19, including those who are self-isolating as a precautionary measure without symptoms. People on zero hour contracts may be eligible for SSP depending on the hours worked and income received.

The legislation also means that people affected by COVID-19 who need financial help will have access to the benefit system for payments, without the need to provide medical evidence or attend a work capability assessment. The seven waiting days for ESA will not apply, and will be payable from day one, and work search and work availability requirements within UC are switched off. Affected self-employed claimants will also not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time within UC.


The UK Government announced last week that the government would meet costs for businesses with fewer than 250 employees of providing SSP to those off work because of COVID-19. This morning, the Welsh Government announced that retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive 100% business rate relief, and pubs with a rateable value of between £51,000 and £100,000 will receive a £5,000 reduction on their bill. HMRC has also set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to COVID-19. The number for the helpline is 0800 0159 559.

I strongly believe that the UK Government needs to implement further measures to support individuals and businesses in this crisis. In meetings at Westminster today I will be pressing the need for increased support for all those affected by the new COVID-19 measures by increasing the rate of SSP, and enhancing it so that it can support all those on zero hour contracts and the self employed. In addition, valid points have been raised with me in relation to the need for support for the cost of utilities and mortgages, and the potential for these payments to be suspended for a period of time to alleviate the burden on individuals and businesses alike. I hope the Chancellor will address these issues later today, and I will make sure to issue a further update as soon as I have any additional information."

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