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COVID19: Work and benefits

If you are in work

Government advice for employees and employers is not as clear as we would like to see for people with axial SpA (AS) who should be engaging in social distancing or who need to be self-isolating. This may change over the coming days, particularly with new legislation before parliament.

Government advice on social distancing can be found here and advice for employers here.

NASS Employment Guide and Guide for Employers

General information

  • Government state that the stay at home guidance does NOT close all workplaces. There are specific types of workplaces that are closed (such as pubs, cinemas and gyms). On 23 March, the stay at home order extended this to places like non-food shops.
  • There are clearly a range of essential services that we will all require in the period ahead, such as utilities and public transport. Some factories and construction sites are not currently being asked to close.
  • If you or someone in your home is vulnerable then you need to avoid the workplace so that social distancing can be achieved and to protect your family. You should always discuss the need to stay at home with your employer.
  • Within workplaces the two-metre social distance rule should be maintained, and if that is not possible then your employer has a responsibility to protect you and to help us all fight this virus. There is a moral and health obligation on employers.
  • If you are a member of a recognised trade union check their advice, and ask that they to speak to your employer. The unions also have useful advice on their websites. 

Self isolating

  • Check our ‘Assessing your risk’ page to see if you should be self-isolating and the government information on shielding vulnerable people.
  • People who self-isolate are eligible to claim statutory sick pay. The government are to change the rules so it is payable from day one, not day four as under previous rules.
  • Members of your family may become eligible for free school meals and other in-work benefits if you reach the eligibility criteria.

If you are claiming benefits

Face to face assessments

  • The DWP have announced the suspension of all PIP, ESA and UC face-to-face assessments for three months from Tuesday 17 March. Anyone who had a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 17 March onwards does not need to attend.
  • You should be contacted by IAS (Atos), Capita or Maximus to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements. This may mean your claim will be assessed on currently available evidence.
  • In some cases the assessment provider might also carry out a telephone assessment. This may take the form of supplementary questions where there is not enough information in the existing evidence.

Appeals

  • Tribunal judges have been given the power to sit alone and to make decisions about PIP, ESA, UC and DLA appeals just on the papers.
  • Under the new powers, a tribunal judge can make a provisional decision just on the paperwork where they believe a successful outcome for the claimant is highly likely.
  • Once a provisional decision is made both you and the DWP will be asked if you agree with that decision.
  • If you both agree, it will become a final decision.

If either you or the DWP are not happy, you can still insist that the case goes to a full hearing.

If a full hearing is required, wherever possible it will be done remotely. This may be by video link or telephone conference.

PIP awards, benefits reviews, reassessments

The DWP have announced that there will be no new reviews or reassessments of benefits for three months from Tuesday 24 March.

Benefits affected include:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)

Where an assessment has already taken place for PIP, the decision making process will continue.

Where you already have an assessment scheduled, the assessment provider should contact you to explain whether a paper or telephone assessment will take place.

If your PIP award is due to end, it will be extended.

Updated 25 March 2020