Being self-employed comes with many benefits, but unfortunately it has its flaws. The main one being the worry of getting sick. Being self-employed, you are not entitled to statutory sick pay. Which is all fine and well if you’re healthy, but given the current situation it is a huge concern for many. The World Health Organisation has now declared the novel coronavirus disease a pandemic. This is concerning for many for various reasons, and given the modern day of the internet, a lot of conflicting information is being spread. This will help you understand how to get sick pay as a self-employed person.
The World Health Organisation’s guidance on what to do if you have symptoms of the coronavirus is to stay at home (also being referred to as ‘self-isolation’) for 7 days from when your symptoms started. Gov.uk states “After 7 days, if you feel better and no longer have a high temperature, you can return to your normal routine. If you have not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, call NHS 111.
Coughing may persist for several weeks in some people, despite the coronavirus infection having cleared. A persistent cough alone does not mean you must continue to self-isolate for more than 7 days.”
That’s all very straightforward if you are fortunate enough to be able to call your boss and tell them you won’t be in for 7 days and leave it to them. Being self-employed, it means a scary loss of business and profit, and a lot of phone calls. The government has addressed the issue of sick pay in the 2020 budget, and changes have been made to help those affected. There are a few sick pay options available for the self-employed affected by coronavirus.
Universal credit was introduced in 2013 to replace several benefits and combine them into one. It is, essentially, a payment to help with your living costs. Normally to apply you will need to make an appointment at a Jobcentre, but given the current situation you are able to call the number you are given when you make the claim and explain the situation. Jobcentre staff will be able to support you if you are required to stay at home. Self-employed people affected by coronavirus and requiring sick pay can receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a Jobcentre. To apply visit the gov.uk website here.
Employment and support allowance
Employment support allowance – or ESA – is money for people who are unable to work due to sickness or disability, but are not entitled to statutory sick pay. According to gov.uk, you can apply for this if you are under the state pension age and have a disability or illness that prevents you from being able to work. Through this under 25s can claim up to £57.90 a week, and over 25s can claim up to £73.10. There is usually a 7 day wait for new claimants, but this will not apply for self-employed people seeking sick pay due to coronavirus. Therefore, it will be payable from the day you make the claim. It is worth noting that while the form suggests you will need to make an appointment, this will not be possible if you are self-isolating, so again, explain your situation. You will find the relevant forms here. Note, you will also not be required to provide a doctor note, again this has been waived because of the coronavirus.
Income protection insurance is part of your insurance policy that is designed to replace a portion of your monthly income should you be unable to work due to sickness or injury. It falls under two categories; long term income protection, and short-term income protection. In the case of being a self-employed person seeking sick pay due to the coronavirus, you would need to have short term income protection included in your policy. This will have had to have been part of your policy prior to any self-isolation or illness.
Short term income protection insurance (STIP) will pay you an agreed monthly amount during a short period (usually 12 months). It is designed to be available if you are unable to work due to accident, sickness, or even redundancy. Depending on your plan you may have to wait a certain number of days before you receive any payments, but this varies from policy to policy, and is not always the case.
Some illnesses are not covered, but given that the coronavirus is a new illness, it will not be listed as not coverable. Your insurer, however, may claim that it is not payable as it is not on the list of coverable illnesses for the same reason. Read your policy thoroughly before contacting them.
The advice is changing daily as the virus continues to spread, but do pay regard to advice to self-isolate if necessary. It is a very uncertain time for a lot of people, especially small business owners and the self-employed. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has asked the PM for more financial protection “for all, including insecure, low paid and self-employed workers, during self-isolation and illness”.
Apply for any benefits or insurance claims as soon as possible, and know you are not alone in this situation. It is a time to pull together more than ever, as there is a lot of uncertainty ahead.
Blog by Amy Senior – The Hair Bones