Coronavirus Q & A for older workers

There are many work-related issues arising from the coronavirus. Here we give answers to some of your most common questions.

Serious pensioner stares into the distance


What are you rights as a carer or a grandparent? What is a key worker? What can you do if you are self employed and cannot work? These are just some of the questions that older workers are asking us. Here is a digest of the main questions on the coronavirus for older workers and advice on what you can do:

Can I look after my grandchildren if my children are key workers and need childcare support?

The Government has said all schools are closed until further notice except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children who cannot be looked after at home and that children should not be left with grandparents over 70 or others who are vulnerable to the virus.  Asked specifically about younger grandparents, they replied:

“We have asked nurseries and other childcare providers to close except for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children, as part of our efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.

“The government has put a range of measures in place to support providers including continuing to fund free entitlements even if children are not attending, a business rate holiday for private providers, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to support workers.

“We are monitoring the availability of provision, including for NHS staff. If critical workers do not have access to their usual childcare place, they should contact their local authority to arrange an alternative.”

They provided this additional background information:

  • Childcare can continue at a childminder’s home, providing it is for the children of critical workers or vulnerable children and that the childminder is registered with Ofsted
  • Critical workers can employ a nanny to provide childcare at their home if they want to.
  • A childminder can look after a child at a critical worker’s home if they register, or have previously registered to do so with Ofsted.

We are seeking further clarification.

Am I a key worker?

The Government has published a list of key workers who are expected to continue working during the lockdown, although they are encouraging everyone who can to work from home. They cover several categories: health and social care, education and childcare, public service, local and national government, food and other necessary goods, public safety and national security, transport, utilities, communication and financial services. The full list can be found here. Key workers who have children can get access to schools and nurseries.

What is the Government offering self employed workers who can’t work or whose earnings are affected by coronavirus?

Self employed people don’t receive statutory sick pay, but if you’re unwell or self isolating you may be eligible to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – now available from day one of sickness instead of day eight. You usually need 2-3 years of National Insurance credits to receive ESA.

Another option is Universal Credit. The Government is suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impact of coronavirus. That means every self-employed person can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees and they will not have to access job centres to claim UC or advanced payments. See

The Government has also announced that the next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021 and that it is deferring the next quarter of VAT payments.

HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement if they cannot pay outstanding tax upfront. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.

There is also a range of other support, for instance, mortgage holidays from banks and buildings societies and the Government has set up a new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for help with businesses who need financial support. Emergency legislation will also be taken forward so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period. As a result of these measures, the Government says no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction.

The roll-out of IR35 tax legislation to the private sector has been delayed for a year. More information is available here.

The Chancellor recently announced a new self-employed income support scheme for those whose earnings come mainly from self employment who are affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government will pay self-employed people a taxable grant based on their earnings over the last three years [or less if they have only been trading for a year or so], worth up to 80% of their average earnings and capped at £2,500 a month. The scheme will run for at least three months.

What is the compensation scheme announced for employees who can’t work due to coronavirus?

Employers will be able to continue to pay staff who are not needed to work during the next three months due to the coronavirus outbreak up to 80% of their wages.  The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that the Government will pay grants covering 80% of employees’ salaries up to 2,500 pounds a month if they are unable to work due to the coronavirus.

Universal Credit will be increased by up one thousand pounds a year and working families tax credit will also be raised.

Employers can claim a grant through the Job Retention Scheme for workers who would otherwise have had to be laid off or made redundant due to coronavirus.

What if I have a close family member who needs to be shielded?

People who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus will have been contacted by the NHS in the last few days to say that they should not go out and avoid face to face contact for the next 12 weeks to shield themselves from the virus.

Those living with them do not have to follow the shielding guidance. They should follow the social distancing guidance very closely and do what they can to support vulnerable people with shielding. See Asthma UK for more advice.

What rights do I have to sick pay?

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is a minimum payment for any employee that is off sick. The current SSP rate means that employees receive £94.25 per week from their employer if they’re too ill to work. It is paid for up to 28 weeks.

Previously, you would need to be off sick for three days before SSP would be paid. Now that anyone who has flu-like symptoms is being asked to self-isolate, the government has brought in new emergency legislation to make sure that people don’t come to work feeling unwell.

Under the new rules, eligible employees will be entitled to SSP from day one of any illness.

This is a minimum payment and some employers will have a more generous approach to sick pay – check your employment contract or speak to your HR department for the details.

To qualify, you need to be employed and earn on average at least £118 per week before tax, you are legally entitled to statutory sick pay.

SSP is paid by your employer in the same way as your normal wages, i.e. weekly or monthly. If you have more than one job you may get SSP from each employer. Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

If for some reason you are not entitled to SSP as an employee you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Ask your employer for an SSP1 form to support your claim.

What if I am a carer?

More advice for carers is available here.

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