Help and support for self-employed during and after Coronavirus

Written on 04/23/2020

The self-employment income support scheme is no longer available, but there are still some schemes open which might be able to help you if your income has been affected. 

There’s also information about the welfare benefits you might be entitled to claim if your income has dropped or you can’t work because you’re sick or self-isolating.

End of the self-employment income support scheme

Support if you’re self-employed through the income support scheme (SEISS) ended on 30 September 2021.

If your work has dried up or your income has been severely affected, there are some options open to you.

Do I need to repay the self-employment income support scheme grants

If you were eligible and made a claim for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant, you do not need to repay the money. But you will need to declare it on your next Self Assessment tax return and pay any income tax and National Insurance due on it. The deadline for your next Self Assessment tax return is 31 January 2022.

Read our guide How to fill in a Self Assessment tax return

However, if you made a claim for SEISS and you were not eligible (even if you thought you were at the time), you need to tell HMRC as soon as possible and you might need to repay some or all of the money.

Find out what to do if you need to pay back some or all of a SEISS grant at GOV.UK
Find out more in our guide What to do when your coronavirus mortgage payment holiday has ended

What happens if you can’t work because you’re sick or having to self-isolate

Self-employed sick pay and coronavirus

If you’re self-employed you can’t claim Statutory Sick Pay.

If you’ve paid enough National Insurance Contributions, you might be able to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you’re ill.

ESA and coronavirus

The government has said you’ll now get paid from the first day of the claim, rather than after eight days.

If this is the first time you’ve applied for ESA, you’ll have to fill in form ESA 1. Until 27 January 2022 you won’t have to send a fit note with your claim as they have been temporarily suspended to allow GPs to carry out booster vaccinations. You should get the first payment into your bank or building society account within two weeks.

Find out more about how to claim ESA on the GOV.UK website or visiting nidirect

You might also be able to claim elements of Universal Credit if you need help with other costs for children or housing if you and your partner have savings of less than £16,000. Their income will also be taken into account as part of the claim.

What happens if you don’t qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?

You might be able to claim the limited capability for work and work-related activity element of Universal Credit if you and your partner have savings of less than £16,000. Your partner’s income will also be taken into account as part of the claim.

Find out more in our guides: 
Universal Credit for sick or disabled people
Universal Credit if you’re self-employed

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What you can do if your income has dropped significantly

Universal Credit for self-employed and coronavirus

Citizens Advice Help to Claim

If you have any questions about claiming Universal Credit, you can talk in complete confidence to a Citizens Advice Help to Claim adviser who can support you through the process.

If you’re in Scotland, visit the Citizens Advice Scotland website

If you (and your partner if you live as a couple) have savings of less than £16,000, then you might be able to claim Universal Credit. 

You might be able to claim elements for other costs, such as housing, caring responsibilities or bringing up children.

If you have savings of between £6,000 and £16,000, the amount of Universal Credit you get will be reduced.

Applying for Universal Credit

If you’re making a new claim for Universal Credit, you’re likely to have a phone interview to check your information.

If you’ve used your Government Gateway or Verify account in the last year, for example to file a Self-Assessment tax return, you can use  it to prove your identity.

You’ll have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, so don’t delay making a claim.

You can make a claim for an advance payment while you are waiting for your Universal Credit payment. You can talk to your work coach about how to do this once you’ve made your claim. The advance payment is a loan that will need to be repaid out of future Universal Credit payments, so make sure you only ask for what you need.

If you stop claiming Universal Credit before you have repaid the advance payment, you will have to agree a repayment plan with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

If you or your partner are already getting any of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit, including Tax Credits, Housing Benefit or Income Support, these benefits will stop. Your benefit income for these costs will be reassessed as part of the Universal Credit claim. It’s a good idea to check how these will be affected before you claim Universal Credit. You can check in complete confidence with a Citizens Advice Help to Claim adviser.

Learn more in our guide Universal Credit if you’re self-employed
Check if you’re eligible and apply for Universal Credit at GOV.UK

If you decide to end your self-employment

If you decide to end your self-employment and apply for benefits, what you can claim depends on the type of National Insurance contributions you were paying and the amount you have in household savings.

If you were only paying Class 2 National Insurance contributions

If you decide to end your self-employment and look for paid work, you usually won’t be able to claim new-style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) if you were only paying Class-2 National Insurance contributions.

Universal Credit is based on household income and savings. You won’t be able to claim it if you have savings over £16,000 as it is a means-tested benefit. You will have to wait until your (and your partner’s) savings drop below £16,000 before you can make a claim.

If you have savings between £6,000 and £16,000, you will get a reduced amount of Universal Credit.

If you have paid Class 1 National Insurance contributions

If you were working as an employee during the past two to three years and paid enough Class-1 National Insurance or received National Insurance credits, you may be able to apply for new-style Jobseeker’s Allowance. You will also be able to make a claim for Universal Credit to help with the costs of housing, caring responsibilities or bringing up children if you have household savings of less than £16,000.

If you are not entitled to claim new-style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and have savings of less than £16,000, you will be able to make a claim for Universal Credit straightaway.

Find out more about Jobseeker’s Allowance at GOV.UK

If you work in the gig economy

Unless it has been agreed as part of your contract, you will not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, sick leave or paid holiday leave.

Some employers have said they will offer sick pay if you have to self isolate because of coronavirus. Others have said they might offer some kind of compensation if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

If you’re working in the gig economy, check with the company to find out what your rights are.

You will be able to claim sickness benefits available for self-employed people if you’re eligible as well as the Test and Trace Support Payment.

You might be entitled to help from the Household Support Fund. Speak to your local council to find out what help is available. 

Find out more in our guide Universal Credit if you’re self-employed

Coronavirus help if you run your own business

Most of the coronavirus support for businesses have either closed to applications or will be ending on 30 September at the same time as furlough. However, some support does remain available.

If you employ less than 250 people, you can reclaim the cost of up to two weeks Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the government if an employee has taken time off because of coronavirus. 

If you run a business in the hospitality industry in England, you might be entitled to grants based on the rateable value of your premises.

Find out about financial support for business during coronavirus at GOV.UK
You can also find out about general support available on the GOV.UK Business Support website
There is some additional support available for businesses and employers if you’re in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:
In Scotland, visit the website
In Wales, visit the website
In Northern Ireland, visit the NI Business Info website

Help if you’re struggling to pay your tax bill

HMRC has expanded its Time to Pay Scheme if you are struggling financially because of anything to do with coronavirus and you owe tax.

If you already have missed a payment or are worried you will miss your next payment, call the HMRC Time to Pay helpline on 0800 015 9559.

If your business is struggling from the effect of coronavirus, you can call Business Debtline on 0800 197 6026.

Self Assessment extension

If you cannot file or pay your Self Assessment tax return by 31 January 2022, you will not be charged late filing or payment penalties if your return is submitted by 28 February 2022 and is paid in full (or set up a Time to Pay arrangement) by 1 April 2022.

However, you will still be charged interest from 1 February 2022, so if you can pay, it’s in your interests to do so.

Find out more on what help might be available for your business and your debt at the Business Debtline
In Northern Ireland, for advice on business debt visit the Advice NI Business Debt Service

Test and Trace Support Payment

In England you will be entitled to a payment of £500, If you’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace system, can’t work from home and are claiming:

  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit, or
  • Housing Benefit.

In Scotland, this is called the Self-Isolation Support Grant and is worth £500.

In Wales, it’s called a self-isolation payment and is worth £750.

In Northern Ireland, it’s called a Discretionary Support Self-Isolation Grant, and you can find out more about it on the NI Direct website(Opens in a new window)

Your local authority will make this payment.

You will have to show proof of your employment to qualify and checks will be carried out to confirm you’re unable to work from home.

Find out more about the Test and Trace Support Scheme:
If you live in England, for claiming financial support visit GOV.UK
If you live in Scotland, understand what the self-isolation grant is at
If you live in Wales, for the self-isolation support scheme visit

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