Bristol, and the rest of the UK, is now in lockdown. To protect your loved ones, please stay at home.

Coronavirus Support for Workers

(PAYE, Zero-hours and freelance).

Over the last weeks, I’ve been speaking with trade unions, business and employment experts and hearing from my constituents about rights and support for workers impacted by the Coronavrius.

This page contains answers to the most commonly asked questions that my team and I get about workplace safety, the Coronavrius Job Retention scheme, zero-hour contracts and more.

If you are self-employed, or run a business, we have another information page here.

If you are a PAYE employee

The best places to get advice and support if you are an employee:

  1. Advice for employees on how to stay safe at work and access financial support.
  2. Information about the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. This document is mainly aimed at employers, but it has useful information about the support you should expect as an employee.
  3. Your rights as an employee during the Coronavirus pandemic 

If you are on a zero-hour, apprentice, temporary or freelance (agency) contract, you can access Government support. 

As long as you have been on your company’s payroll before March 19th 2020, you are eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme (80%+ Salary Furlough). This is for all PAYE employees- including those on zero-hour, apprentice or temporary and freelance contracts.

If you work multitple jobs, you can be furloughed from one job and still work for other businesses.

The best places to find information about the assistance you can receive are here:

  1. Government Business Support
  2. Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert video summary.
  3. Federation of Small Businesses support and advice.

Constituent FAQs

I’m a PAYE employee, what support am I entitled to?

The Government offers support to employees affected by the Coronavirus in three ways: SSP (Sick Pay), Coronavirus Job Retention (80% salary for furloughed employees) and Universal Credit. 

I need to self-isolate, what support am I entitled to?

If you have to self-isolate because you, or someone in your household, have symptoms of Coronavirus, then you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from Day 1 of taking sick leave. 

All PAYE employees are entitled to this, and your employer will pay this to you directly as part of your regular paycheck. The Government will reimburse employers for 14 days of SSP per employee.

SSP is worth £94.25 per week. Darren and the Labour party have asked for the Government to increase this amount to truly reflect living costs.  

You don’t need a sick note from a GP for this. If your employer asks for one, you can get a sick note online through the NHS 111 service here

You can find further information about how SSP works here.

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

If the organisation that employs you is going through financial distress, they may furlough you and receive Government help to pay your salary. Furloughing is when you are put on an extended leave of absence instead of being fired or made redundant. You can’t work for your employer during this time, but you can volunteer to help with the Coronavirus response. You don’t need to have coronavirus symptoms to qualify for this scheme. 

If you are furloughed, you still receive your salary and the Government will help your employer pay for that. Basically, the government will give your employer 80% of your salary (up to £2500 per month) backdated to the start of March so that your organisation can keep you employed but not working.

Organisations are strongly urged to furlough their employees instead of firing or making them redundant.

You can find more information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme here.

Am I eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme?

If you have been an employee for your organisation since February 2019 or before, you are covered by this scheme. If you were made redundant after March 19th 2020, your employer can hire you back and then furlough you so that 80% of your salary is covered by the Government. 

You are eligible for this scheme if you are a:

  • Full-time employee
  • part-time employee
  • Agency contract employee
  • Zero-hour contract or flexible hour employee

If you think you are eligible for this scheme, but your employer says that you are not please show them the Government guidance or get in touch with me via email at

What support will I get if I lose my job during the Coronavirus?

If you have been fired, made redundant or seen your hours reduced you can apply for Universal Credit. The entry requirements and checks for Universal Credit have been relaxed because of the Coronavirus pandemic. You won’t need to go to a jobcentre or prove that you are searching for work.

If you have lost your job after February 28th, please contact your employer. They will be able to hire you back and then place you in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.  The waiting period to receive Universal Credit is still 5 weeks, but once you apply you can request an Advance Payment to help tide you over.  

I’m concerned that my workplace is unsafe or that employer is not following social distancing guidance.

While the majority of businesses are behaving responsibly, some have not put adequate measures in place to protect their workers. If you believe your workplace is unsafe, please report this the Avon and Somerset Police here. You can also contact me directly at

I’ve had to self-isolate but my employer is asking me for proof that I have Coronavirus if I want to continue getting sick-pay. What should I do?

The government strongly advises businesses not to ask their employees to provide medical evidence (Doctor’s note or a positive test) if the absence is due to Coronavirus. 

Employers will be refunded 14 days any employee Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payment. By law, employers are not allowed to ask for medical proof of illness during the first 7 days of SSP. If your employer asks for a sick note after 7 days, you can get one from the NHS 111 Online service here

Government advice is to self-isolate if you, or someone in your household, experience even mild Coronavirus symptoms. The Government urges businesses to behave in a way that enables this behaviour. 

What is the Government doing to help people who have lost their jobs or on low-incomes?

If you have lost your job, cannot work or need extra support because of the coronavirus you can claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC ). This is available from day one of needing it. This is different from Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) that is available to employed workers and some people on zero-hour contracts who cannot work because they are self-isolating (more below). SSP will also be available from day 1 of self-isolation.

The ESA and UC eligibility criteria have changed to take into account the Coronavirus. From now on, if you lose your job or need income assistance because of the Coronavirus:

  1. ESA will available from day 1, instead of day 7.
  2. You can now apply for UC without providing medical access or completing a work-capability assessment.
  3. UC work search and availability checks have been suspended. 
  4. Those claiming UC will also be able to access work allowance and childcare support. 
  5. The UC Minimum Income Floor has been temporarily suspended. 

This means you will able to access UC without going through the normal check process. To avoid having to wait for payments, please make sure you request a UC Advance when you apply.

If you are on a zero-hour contract you may be eligible for SSP but only if you are paid over £120 per week by your employer. Please contact your employer directly to check if you are eligible. If you do not qualify, you will be able to access UC and ESA instead.

I have or care for, school-aged children. What should I do?

Children are thought to be the least at-risk group from COVID-19. Although current scientific thinking indicates that children may be capable of spreading the virus. 

All schools and further education providers have closed until further notice. Exams have been suspended for this year, as have school performance tables. If your child receives Free School Meals, your school will continue to provide this service.

If you are a worker involved in frontline Coronavirus support (Government list here), your children can still go to school if necessary.

If you have children who require additional support, including those with a social worker or an educational health and care plan, your children can still go to school.

You can call the Department for Education’s COVID-19 helpline for further guidance on 0800 046 8687, however, this helpline is likely to be very busy. Your child’s school should also be regularly getting updates from the Government and it may be quicker to get in touch with the school directly for guidance

Last Update: 16/04/2020