Project: Empower

Author: Mozes Salvatore

Posted on

Coronavirus – Renting and Evictions

31 August 2020

1. NO EVICTION WITHOUT A COURT ORDER

For most tenants, you cannot be evicted without your landlord serving a notice, going to court and using a court bailiff.

Anything short of the above is likely to be UNLAWFUL!

Please seek legal advice if your landlord tries or threatens to evict you without a court order.

2. EXTENDED NOTICE PERIODS

Landlords must generally serve a notice before starting a claim for possession.

Since 26 March 2020, most tenants have been entitled to a 3 month notice period. This includes if you’re a:

  • council or housing association tenant
  • private renter who gets a s.21 or s.8 notice

From 29 August 2020, most notices will have to be at least 6 months. Landlords can give a shorter notice where tenants are in more than 6 months’ rent arrears or where there is antisocial behaviour. This does not affect notices served before 29 August 2020. You can find the government’s announcement on GOV.UK.

If you have been given a notice by your landlord, please seek immediate legal advice!

3. POSSESSION PROCEEDINGS ON HOLD

A pause has been placed on all possession proceedings until at least 20 September 2020.

If you have an existing possession claim or your landlord is planning on issuing a claim for possession, please seek legal advice.

4. RENT ARREARS

Tenants should continue to pay their rent. Any rent arrears that have accrued during the pause on possession proceedings can still be used to evict you after the pause has been lifted.

For housing association and private tenants, you must NOT let your rent arrears go over 8 weeks!

If you are struggling to pay your rent, please write to your landlord and try and agree to a payment plan. You should also seek debt and housing advice!

5. SECTION 21

Private landlords can generally rely on a s.21 notice to start a claim for possession. Although, all claims are currently on pause.

Your landlord does not need a reason to rely on a s.21 notice. If the s.21 notice is valid, possession will generally be granted.

Please seek immediate legal advice regarding the validity of any s.21 notices!

Posted on

Coronavirus – being furloughed if you can’t work

11 June 2020

Your employer might be able to use the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to pay you while you’re not working. This is known as being a ‘furloughed worker’.

Your employer might furlough you if they can’t pay you or if there’s no work – for example, if your place of work is closed.

You can also ask to be furloughed. You might want to do this if you:

  • are ‘extremely vulnerable’ and following government guidance to lower your risk of getting coronavirus – known as ‘shielding’
  • live with someone who is ‘extremely vulnerable’
  • are looking after your children while their school is closed
  • are pregnant or have a health condition and you’re worried about coronavirus
  • are over 70

If your employer applies to the scheme, you’ll be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. This will continue until the end of October, unless you return to work before then.

Check if you can be furloughed

Your employer will only be able to use the scheme to pay you if either:

  • you’ve already been furloughed before 11 June 2020
  • you’re returning from maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or parental bereavement leave

If you’re returning from one of these types of leave, your employer must also have used the scheme to furlough other employees.

You can be furloughed full-time or part-time. For example, you could work 3 days a week and be furloughed for the other 2 days.

If you’re working from home you should get your normal pay from your employer.

If you’re an agency worker

If you can be furloughed, you need to ask your agency. They’re the ones who can furlough you, not the place where you do your job.

If you’re self-employed

There’s another government scheme which helps people who are self-employed.

If you’re employed by a business and you’re also self-employed, you can be furloughed and might also be able to use the self-employment scheme.

If you or someone you live with is ‘extremely vulnerable’

Your employer can furlough you if you or someone you live with is extremely vulnerable and following guidance to self-isolate. This is called ‘shielding’.

Check if you’re extremely vulnerable according to the guidance on GOV.UK.

You’re also entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if you’re shielding. Some employers also pay extra sick pay – it depends what it says in your contract. Talk to your employer if you’re thinking of claiming sick pay instead of being furloughed.

If your employer won’t furlough you

Your employer doesn’t have to furlough you, but you can ask them why they’ve said no and ask if they’ll change their decision. 

Check if they’ve seen the guidance for employers on GOV.UK. It explains who can be furloughed under the rules of the scheme.

If you look after someone and can’t be furloughed, you can check what to do if you need to be off work to care for someone.

If you’re pregnant or disabled and can’t work because of coronavirus, your employer’s decision might be discrimination. You should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you’re furloughed

You’re still employed by your employer while you’re not working.

The government will only pay your employer if they have evidence you’ve been furloughed. 

Your employer should have sent you a letter or email explaining you’ll be paid through the scheme. If they haven’t sent you anything, ask for confirmation in writing.  

Your employer might also ask you to reply in writing saying you agree to be furloughed. You can do this if they ask you, but you should still be paid even if you haven’t.

If your employer says they can’t furlough you because you haven’t agreed in writing, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check how much you’ll get

The government will give your employer 80% of your regular pay before tax – also known as your ‘gross pay’. You can’t get more than £2,500 a month, even if 80% of your gross pay is more than this. 

Your employer works out how much you should get before they make a claim. They can’t include tips, and they can only include commission and bonuses if your contract says you should always get them.

If you’re furloughed part-time, you should get 100% of your normal gross pay for the days you work and at least 80% for the days you’re furloughed.

Your employer might decide to pay you the extra 20% so you get 100% of your normal gross pay, but they don’t have to. 

Your employer will take off tax, National Insurance contributions and any other deductions they normally make. 

80% of your regular pay might be below minimum wage. This isn’t against the law, because you’re not working

If your regular pay changes from month to month

If you’ve been employed for a year or more, your employer should claim for whichever is higher out of:

  • the amount you earned in the same month last year
  • your average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year

If you’ve had your job for less than a year, they’ll take an average of your earnings since you started.

If you’ve had your job for less than a year, they’ll take an average of your earnings since you started. This should also include any overtime you had to do or any commission your employer had to pay you.

If you and your employer pay into a workplace pension scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will pay your employer enough to make the minimum contribution to your pension – this is 3% of your earnings. If your employer was paying more than 3%, they might stop paying the extra amount while they’re paying you through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. 

You’ll still pay your pension contributions from the money you get through the scheme. 

If you have more than 1 employer

You can be furloughed by each employer separately. Each employer can pay you a maximum of £2,500 a month. This means you could get more than £2,500 in total, if your regular pay is high enough.  

If your employer asks you to work while you’re furloughed

If your employer has furloughed you, they shouldn’t ask you to work during any hours you’re furloughed – this includes asking you to work voluntarily. 

Your employer can ask you to do certain types of training – for example, an online course to improve your skills. They can’t ask you to do training if it makes money or provides services for them.

Your employer could be committing a criminal offence if they ask you to work during any hours you’re furloughed. You could complain to your employer – tell them it’s against the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It’s a good idea to complain in writing, for example by text or email – this means you’ll have evidence if you need it.

If your employer still asks you to work, you could also report them to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You don’t have to give your personal details when you report your employer. You can report an employer to HMRC on GOV.UK. Choose the option to ‘report tax fraud online’.

If you want to get another job while you’re furloughed

You can work somewhere else if your contract with your current employer lets you. Getting a new job won’t affect your furlough pay. 

If you get a new job, you should make sure:

  • you can go back to work for the employer who furloughed you when they decide to bring you back
  • your new employer gives you the starter checklist form – you’ll need to complete Statement C

If your employer won’t let you take paid holiday while you’re furloughed

Your employer doesn’t have to let you take paid holiday if they have a good reason. For example they might not be able to afford it, because the law says they have to pay you 100% of your pay when you take holiday.

If you can’t take all your paid holiday because of coronavirus, you can carry over up to 4 weeks of holiday into the next year – you’ll have 2 years to use it.

It doesn’t matter what your job is – for example, whether you’re a key worker or not. All workers can carry over their holiday.

While you’re furloughed, you’ll still build up your paid holiday. You can arrange with your employer when to take it, as you usually would.

If your employer tells you to take holiday

They have to give you notice before the holiday starts and give you 100% of your pay while you’re off.

The notice needs to be twice the length of the holiday. For example, if your employer tells you to take 1 week off, they need to tell you at least 2 weeks before the holiday starts.

If you’re in the UK on a work visa

If you’ve been furloughed, it won’t affect your right to stay in the UK. For example, if your visa requires you to:

  • have a job – being furloughed doesn’t mean you’ve lost your job
  • not claim money from ‘public funds’ – furlough pay isn’t seen as public funds
  • earn a minimum amount – it doesn’t matter if your furlough pay is less than the minimum amount

If you don’t want to be furloughed

If you refuse to be furloughed, you could be made redundant. If your employer makes you redundant, they have to follow the usual rules to make the redundancy fair. 

You might be able to claim benefits, but this will probably give you less money than 80% of your normal pay.

If you’re made redundant while you’re furloughed

You can still be made redundant while you’re furloughed. Your employer has to follow the right process and can’t discriminate against you –  check if your redundancy is fair if you’re not sure. 

You might be entitled to:

  • pay during your notice period
  • pay for holiday time you haven’t taken
  • extra money for your redundancy
Posted on

Coronavirus – if you have problems getting your furlough pay

22 May 2020

There are things you can do if you:

  • haven’t had any furlough pay yet but think you should have
  • think you’ve been paid the wrong amount
  • think your employer is keeping your furlough pay and not giving it to you

It’s a good idea to talk to your employer first to see if you can sort the problem together.

If you’re not happy with what they say or you can’t contact them, you can tell your employer about the problem in a more formal way – called ‘raising a grievance’.

You can also start a process called ‘early conciliation’ if the grievance doesn’t work. This is a way of resolving disputes with your employer through Acas, an independent organisation.

If you haven’t been paid your furlough pay

Your employer should pay you on the same day you’re usually paid.

If your employer says they haven’t had the money from HMRC yet, ask when they applied to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It should take around 6 working days for HMRC to give the money to your employer after they apply.

If you think you should have been paid by now, ask your employer when they expect to pay you.

You can raise a grievance if:

  • you think your employer has the money and it’s taking too long to pay you
  • you don’t hear from your employer or they won’t tell you when they applied to the scheme

If you think you’ve been paid the wrong amount

Tell your employer if you think they’ve paid you the wrong amount of furlough pay.

If they say there’s been a mistake, they still need to give you the right amount. They have to do this even if they say they can’t claim the extra money from HMRC.

Ask them to pay you the extra amount you’re owed straight away – you shouldn’t have to wait until your next pay day.

You can raise a grievance if they say they’ve paid you the right amount, but you don’t agree.

Raising a grievance

Follow your employer’s grievance process if they have one – you can still raise a grievance if they don’t.

The first step is to write to them explaining the problem. It’s best to do this in an email. Send it to an email address you know someone is checking.

There are things you should say, depending on what your problem is. You can also check our blogs on Grievances: I have a grievance and How do I write a grievance letter.

If your grievance doesn’t work

You can start a process called ‘early conciliation’ through Acas – an independent organisation that helps sort out employment disputes. 

The quickest way to start is to fill in the early conciliation form on the Acas website. Or you can call the Acas early conciliation team on 0300 123 1122.

You’ll need to fill in the early conciliation form within 3 months minus 1 day of either:

  • the date when you should have last been paid
  • the date your pay was wrong

Early conciliation can last up to 1 month, but it might be quicker than that. If early conciliation doesn’t work, you can go to an employment tribunal. You have 1 month after early conciliation ends to go to a tribunal.

Posted on

Coronavirus – if you’re worried about working

15 May 2020

If you’re worried about work because of coronavirus, there are:

  • laws your employer should be following to make sure you’re safe
  • things to think about if you’re deciding whether to work
  • ways you might be able to keep getting paid if you decide not to work

You might be worried about working if you:

  • have a health condition that means you’re ‘vulnerable’ – check if you’re vulnerable according to the guidance on GOV.UK
  • are pregnant
  • are living with someone who has to stay at home because they’re ‘extremely vulnerable’
  • are over 70

If you have a condition that means you’re ‘extremely vulnerable’, you need to avoid face-to-face contact with others and stay at home for 12 weeks. This is known as ‘shielding’.

Check if you’re ‘extremely vulnerable’ according to the guidance on GOV.UK.

If you’re shielding you won’t be able to go to work, but you can work from home if it’s possible.

Check the guidelines for staying safe at work

You should be working from home unless it’s not possible. 

When your job can’t be done at home, your employer should keep you safe from coronavirus. This could be by:

  • letting you travel to work at quieter times of the day
  • reducing how much face-to-face contact you have with the public
  • making sure that staff stay at least 2 metres apart in your workplace

You can read the government guidance for making workplaces safe on GOV.UK.

If you’re pregnant

Your employer has an extra responsibility to make changes to your job so it’s safe for you to keep working. If they can’t make changes to make sure you’re safe, they could give you a different role to do.

If it’s still not safe for you to keep working, you might have a right to stay at home and still get your full pay.

If you’re disabled

Your employer might have an extra responsibility to make changes to your work to help you work. For example, they might have to give you a different job to do. 

This is called making ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Talk to your employer

Talk to your employer if you think there’s more they could do to keep you safe. Try to be constructive and explain what you need to happen so that you’ll feel safe at work.

If you don’t want to work

Your employer doesn’t usually have to pay you if you stop working. There are things you might be able to agree with your employer that mean you can still be paid if you stop working.

If you’re not already on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (known as being ‘furloughed’), you can ask your employer if they’ll put you on it. You’ll be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

Your employer will only be able to use the scheme to pay you if either:

  • you’ve already been furloughed before 11 June 2020
  • you’re returning from maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or parental bereavement leave

If you’re returning from one of these types of leave, your employer must also have used the scheme to furlough other employees.

If you’ve already been furloughed, ask your employer to keep you on the scheme.

You should tell your employer if you have a health condition that means you’re ‘extremely vulnerable’ or ‘vulnerable’ – they might be more likely to agree to furlough you or extend your furlough. You should explain that the government guidance says you need to take extra care to avoid contact with people.

If you can, ask your doctor for evidence of your condition.

If your employer agrees to furlough you, find out how the scheme works

Posted on

Coronavirus – if you’re self-employed

27 March 2020

If your business has been affected by coronavirus you might be able to get money from the government, for example if you’ve:

  • lost out on income
  • had to stop working to look after someone

You could get 80% of your average profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month from the government. This is called the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

If you’re eligible, you can get money to cover lost income for 3 months. You have until 13 July 2020 to apply.

If your business is still affected by coronavirus in August, you’ll be able to apply to the scheme again. You’ll be able to apply even if you didn’t apply for a first payment.

You won’t have to pay the money back, but you’ll have to pay tax on it. 

Check if you can use the Self-employment Income Support Scheme

You can use the scheme if you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership. 

Your self-employed profits must not be more than £50,000 per year and they must make up at least half of your total income. The government will look at your tax returns to see if you’re eligible – if you’re not sure you can check the rules on GOV.UK.

You’ll also have to:

  • have been affected by coronavirus – you won’t need to give evidence of this when you apply
  • have done self-employed work in the tax year 2019-20
  • be planning to do self-employed work in the tax year 2020-21

You’ll probably also need to have done self-employed work in the tax year 2018-19 and submitted your tax return. If you didn’t do self-employed work in 2018-19 you should check the scheme rules on GOV.UK.

Check how much you’ll get

HMRC will calculate how much you should get based on your self-employed profits. You’ll get 1 payment to cover lost income for 3 months. If you apply to the scheme again in August you’ll get a second payment.

You can find out more about the scheme rules on GOV.UK 

Applying for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme 

You can apply for the scheme on GOV.UK.

If you can’t apply online, you can check how to contact HMRC for help on GOV.UK.

If HMRC accept your application, they say they’ll pay you within 6 working days. 

You’re allowed to keep working and still get money from the scheme. You can also get another job as an employee somewhere else. But you should remember:

  • you’re only eligible for the scheme if you plan to continue trading in this tax year – you might have to pay the money back if you apply and then stop trading
  • the money you get from the scheme is taxable income, so you might end up paying more tax

If your company pays people through PAYE

You can apply for a grant to pay them 80% of their wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on GOV.UK. 

If you need help while you’re waiting for money through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you might also be able to use the Business Interruption Loan Scheme on GOV.UK.

Posted on

Employment Law Changes from April 2019

There are four main statutory changes that are set to come into force during April 2019 that you need to be aware of:

Itemised Pay Statements

From 6 April, the right to itemised pay statement will extend to workers, not just employees.

Also, for pay periods beginning on or after 6 April, pay statements provided to employees and workers whose pay varies based on the hours worked will need to show the number of hours paid at the variable rate. This will apply not only to hourly paid employees and workers but also to those who receive fixed pay with a variable rate applied to any overtime. In this case, the pay statement will need to show the number of hours of overtime worked.

National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage

From 1 April, the following changes come into effect:

  • If you are aged 25, the national living wage has increased to £8.21 per hour.
  • If you are aged between 21 and 25, the hourly rate has increased to £7.70.
  • If you are aged between 18 and 21, the hourly rate has increased to £6.15.
  • If you are aged under 18, the hourly rate has increased to £4.35.
  • The hourly apprentice rate has increased to £3.90 and the daily accommodation off­set has increased to £7.55.

Statutory Sick Pay

From 6 April 2019, statutory sick pay has increased to £94.25 per week

Statutory Family Leave

From 7April, the weekly amount for statutory family pay rates has increased to £148.68 for 2019/20. This rate applies to maternity pay, adoption pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and maternity allowance.

As before, if this is more than 90% of your average weekly earnings, the statutory rate of pay will be capped at 90%. The first six weeks of any period of qualifying leave will continue to be paid at 90% of average weekly earnings.

If you have any questions, feel free to attend our weekly Employment Drop ins.

Important Information

Site Under Construction

Welcome to Project: Empower.

Our IT person is still busy tinkering about with code, making sure the site is up to scratch.

Although Project: Empower already up and running, our website isn't quite finished yet.

But when it is, expect a revolutionary new chapter to our small, but growing charity project.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.