BENEFITS EXPERT: How Covid means changes to some sickness-based benefits

Firstly some news concerning the new Covid-19 variant and how this relates to sickness-based benefits, i.e. Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit on sickness grounds or Employment and Support Allowance.

These changes only apply to new claims not existing claims, they are temporary in nature and designed to free up GP’s to help with booster program. Normally when claiming any of these payments a claimant can self-certify their sickness for the first 7 days of illness, now claimants can self-certify for 28 days and thereafter would need to seek a fit note from their GP. It may be that this is extended depending on how booster program goes and any possible future lockdowns.

Q. I am due to start my Maternity Leave in 2 weeks, but my employer has told me that I have not worked there long enough to be paid Statutory Maternity Pay. Is there anything I can claim instead?

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A. By the 15th week before your baby is due, you must have worked for your current employer for at least 26 weeks. If you have not met that criterion, then you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance instead. You must have been working and earning at least £30 per week in 26 out of the 66 weeks before your baby is due. Maternity Allowance is paid by the DWP and you would need to complete an MA1 form to apply.

Maternity Allowance is paid for 39 weeks and is 90% of your average wages – capped at £151.20 per week. You can apply from 15 weeks before your due date and can be paid from 11 weeks before your due date.

We would also advise you seek a benefit check based on your circumstances now and also after the birth of your child as you may be entitled to additional benefits depending on your circumstances.

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