The effects of coronavirus are wreaking havoc as millions of Britons could find themselves unemployed if businesses continued to be forced to cut costs significantly.
The Treasury sets up a Retention system to encourage employers to keep as many employees on the payroll as possible, but this will not be an option for the companies most affected.
It is also not accessible to any of the five million self-employed British workers if they lose their livelihoods due to the pandemic. The government has said it support them through a grant program to cover up to 80pc of lost profits. Unfortunately, not all freelancers and entrepreneurs will be eligible and even those who do will have to wait until June to receive the money.
However, if you have lost your job or your income, you are still entitled to assistance.
If you found yourself unemployed or self-employed and your business was badly affected, you can apply for the universal credit. It is a payment made by the government to help you cover your living expenses.
Normally, standard payments are £ 251.77 per month if you are single and under 25 or up to £ 317.82 if you are over that age. Those in a relationship under 25 would generally receive £ 395.20 while those over 25 would receive £ 398.89 for both individuals.
You may be eligible for more if you have children, have a health problem or disability, and / or need help paying your rent.
These payments have been temporarily increased over the next 12 months to match the statutory sickness benefit rate. Applicants will now be able to get £ 94.25 a week.
The first step towards obtaining universal credit is to check if you are eligible. You can be excluded if you have personal savings of £ 16,000 or more, although if you have money invested in your own business, it will not count. The full criteria can be found on gov.uk/universal-credit.
Additional support for employees
If you have worked as an employee in the past two or three years and have paid social security contributions, you may also be able to receive the “new style” jobseeker’s allowance.
You must be over the age of 18 but not yet of legal retirement age, not be in full-time education, be available for work and not have any illness or handicap that prevents you from working. You will need to show that you are actively seeking new work to continue receiving payments.
Those who are eligible can obtain a “new style” allowance for a maximum of 182 days, or approximately six months. Check if you are eligible here: gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance.
You will usually need to book an interview with Jobcentre Plus to prove that you are looking for work, but this will not be necessary during the coronavirus period.
Additional support for freelancers
If you are self-employed and lose work because of the coronavirus, you may be eligible for both the universal credit and the Employment Support Allowance (ESA). To be eligible, you must have paid enough national insurance premiums or credits in the past two or three years.
You must be under the legal retirement age and have a health problem that affects you so much that you can work. The full criteria are available on the government website: gov.uk/employment-support-allowance.
Those who are just applying for benefits may find that they have to wait weeks for their first paycheck to arrive. The usual processing time for a universal credit application is five weeks. It may well be longer now, as there have been almost half a million new requests, with requesters reporting tens of thousands of queues online.
The Chancellor has also announced plans to help those who lose their jobs keep a roof over their heads by granting mortgage payers three months off their payments if they need to.
For tenants, he released £ 1 billion in support, “increasing the generosity of housing allowance and universal credit, so that local housing allowance covers at least 30pc of market rents in your area” .
What jobs can I apply for?
For those who need to get back to work as soon as possible, the good news is that there are many new jobs. Companies at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus have posted tens of thousands of job postings online.
The key jobs that are currently in demand are delivery drivers, nurses, teachers and housekeepers. Indeed, 31,387 new jobs were advertised in just three days last week on Indeed, an online job posting site.
Among these, there were just over 5,000 announcements for customer service staff, 4,600 for nurses and 2,800 in transportation.
Supermarkets are among the mass renters, as they have been forced to hire more staff to meet the growing demand from buyers.
Tesco has announced that it is hiring 20,000 new employees, while Morrisons is hiring 3,500 new delivery drivers. The sectors with the highest growth in job vacancies are the distribution sector, telecommunications, social services, childcare providers and online tutors.
How can I volunteer?
If you have no trouble making ends meet and want to do good with the new free time you have, you can sign up to become an NHS volunteer.
This week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS during the pandemic and within 24 hours 405,000 people signed up.
These volunteers will donate their time to help the 1.5 million people with health problems isolate themselves for 12 weeks.
Anyone over 18 who is fit and healthy and has no symptoms of coronavirus can volunteer their time on the program and help shopping for vulnerable people, transporting patients to and from the hospital, to take and deliver medicines and to check isolated people by phone.
You can register to become a voluntary NHS sponsor at goodsamapp.org/NHS.
Read more about all the different roles you can play as a volunteer.
Additional reporting by Sam Meadows