DWP updates eligibility conditions for ESA claims – will you be affected by the new rules? | Personal Finance | Finance

ESA rules have been updated for those who are unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay and have ongoing child care concerns. Additionally, claimants who are returning from abroad will be affected.

Proof of self-isolation

If claimants, or their children, are self-isolating and you cannot work because of coronavirus, they can get an “isolation note” online from NHS 111 if they’ve been off work for seven or more days. They will not have to go to their doctor or a hospital for this note.

Where claimants have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus, the notification itself will count as proof.

Additionally, if claimants have been advised by their doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery, the letter confirming the date of their procedure counts as proof.

ESA provides a fortnightly payment which can be received on its own or on top of Universal Credit. New Style ESA is a contributory benefit, which means claimants may be able to get it if they’ve paid, or been credited with, enough National Insurance contributions in the two full tax years before the year it’s claimed.

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ESA eligibility

To get ESA, claimants will need to have been an employee or self-employed and paid (or been credited with) National Insurance contributions, usually in the last two to three years.

Additionally, claimants will need to have a fit note or similar documentation and if an applicant gets support from ESA and Universal Credit, the ESA payments they receive will reduce their Universal Credit by the same amount.

ESA cannot be claimed by those in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay but they can apply up to three months before their Statutory Sick Pay ends.

Claims for ESA are made online through the Government’s website and when applying, claimants will need to have the following ready:

  • Their National Insurance number
  • Their bank or building society account number and sort code
  • Their doctor’s name, address and telephone number
  • Details of their income if they’re working
  • The date your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) ends if they’re claiming it

Following an assessment process, claimants will be placed into either a work-related activity group or support group. Those in the work-related activity group will get up to £74.70 per week, while support group claimants will get up to £114.10.

Statutory Sick Pay

More workers may end up dependent on ESA going forward as employers are forced to address mounting costs. The Government ended its Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme on September 30, which repaid employers the Statutory Sick Pay they paid to current or former employees.

This means, going forward, employers will no longer be able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work due to coronavirus, adding additional costs onto already struggling businesses.

Employers affected by these changes must submit or amend their claims on or before December 31, 2021.

As the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy over the last 18 months or so, many charities and campaigners called on the Government to raise Statutory Sick Pay rates. Currently, workers can get £96.35 per week from Statutory Sick Pay and it is paid for up to 28 weeks.

However, in late July, the Government confirmed in a consultation that no changes will be forthcoming for the foreseeable future. The DWP and Department of Health and Social Care said: “The consultation posed several important questions on the future of SSP which require further consideration.

“[The] Government maintains that SSP provides an important link between the employee and employer but that now is not the right time to introduce changes to the sick pay system.”

Dame Clare Moriarty, the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, condemned this news.

“[The] announcement is a U-turn on the Government’s commitment to improve sick pay and support people on low incomes,” she said.

“With cases of coronavirus rising and many needing to self-isolate, it could not come at a worse time.

“We’d urge the Government to think again. Otherwise many will continue to face an impossible choice: work when ill or fall behind on their bills.”

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