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advice column
Our advice column features common queries along with advice and information about what you can do to resolve them. 
 
If you have an issue that you are trying to resolve and it is not covered below you can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or for advice in person, visit your local Citizens Advice or you can email us
 
Special redundancy edition 
 
I’ve worked at the same company for many years but I’ve been told I’m being made redundant. What redundancy pay am I entitled to? 
 
If you’re being made redundant, there are two types of redundancy pay you could get. ‘Statutory’ redundancy pay is the minimum that the law says you’re entitled to, or ‘contractual’ redundancy pay, which is extra money your contract says you can get on top of the statutory amount.
 
You’re usually only entitled to statutory redundancy pay if you’ve been an employee for at least two years. It’s worth asking your employer or checking your contract to see if you’re entitled to more than the statutory redundancy rules allow.
 
Statutory redundancy pay is based on age, weekly pay and number of years in the job, up to a max of £538 a week. The Citizens Advice and Gov.uk websites have calculators to help work out how much you’ll get. For example, if you’re aged 41 and over, you’ll get 1.5 week’s statutory redundancy pay for each full year you’ve worked, up to a maximum of 20 years’ service.
 
If your employer offers a suitable alternative job, but you refuse to take it without good reasons, they can refuse to pay your redundancy.
 
You won’t get statutory redundancy pay if you’ve been employed for less than two years, are self-employed or are in certain jobs like the armed forces or police (though you may be entitled to contractual pay).
 
If you’ve been furloughed, the law now says that your redundancy pay should be worked out using your usual wages, even if you were paid 80% while you were furloughed. However, statutory redundancy pay still limits a weeks’ pay to £538.
 
If your employer has told you that your redundancy pay will be based on your furlough rate of pay, you could explain to the employer that isn’t what the Gov.uk website says about redundancy pay, or contact your nearest Citizens Advice:
You can call us on freephone 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

Summer 2020
 
What do I need to do to ensure I keep getting Universal Credit?
 
Last month I signed up to Universal Credit for the first time, after I was made redundant. I am looking for a new job but I’m not sure if there’s anything more I need to do to ensure I keep getting Universal Credit?
 
When you apply for Universal Credit you’ll agree a Claimant Commitment with your work coach. A Claimant Commitment is a record of the responsibilities that you have accepted to receive Universal Credit payments. Your claimant commitment will be updated each time you see your work coach.
 
When you agree to your Claimant Commitment you will be put into one of four work-related activity groups (sometimes called “conditionality” groups). These set out the tasks you’re expected to complete in order to receive your full benefit payment. You can check which group you’re in by logging into your Universal Credit account online and checking your Claimant Commitment. If you’re not online, you will have been provided with a paper copy of your Claimant Commitment.
 
This will tell you which group you’re in and what tasks you'll have to do regularly to get Universal Credit. These tasks could include writing your CV, signing up for job alerts or applying for vacancies.
 
In order to show how you have completed the to-do list set out in your Claimant Commitment, you should keep a record of the tasks you’ve completed and how long they took in your Universal Credit online journal, or in a diary if you’re not online. 
 
Some claimants, mainly those who have applied for Universal Credit for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, may not have a Claimant Commitment yet. Those who claimed before the outbreak, will have had their Claimant Commitment suspended during the outbreak and had no work-related requirements imposed. 
 
From 1 July The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said it will be calling all claimants to help them to prepare for work, so people should expect to be contacted to set up the Claimant Commitment. They do not need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions in the meantime. 
 
The DWP has said that they will take a common-sense approach to work-related requirements and that those who are shielding, have childcare responsibilities because of COVID restrictions, etc. will have their Claimant Commitment tailored to reflect their circumstances.
 
You can find more detailed information and answers to some frequently asked questions in our article Universal Credit: What you need to know as job-hunting rules restart

If have further questions, we're here to help. 
You can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

July 2020
 
What are my rights if my employer makes me redundant?
 
It’s possible that some employers will not be able to continue to operate, or will need less employees, as the furlough scheme comes to an end, in which case they may decide to make redundancies.
 
When employers are making decisions about redundancies and who to make redundant, they must not discriminate and should follow a fair procedure. Even in a genuine redundancy dismissal, the employer may have unfairly dismissed you or acted in a discriminatory way.
 
Employees with 2 or more years’ service are entitled to statutory redundancy payments, and up to 12 weeks statutory notice of the redundancy. Contracts of employment may give higher redundancy payments and longer notice entitlements. Payment in lieu of untaken statutory paid holiday is also payable. 
 
‘Workers’ are not entitled to statutory redundancy payments or notice of dismissal, and employees with less than 2 years’ service cannot claim unfair dismissal, but they are protected by discrimination law and are entitled to pay in lieu of holiday.
 
For more information about leaving a job, including dismissal and redundancy go to: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/leaving-a-job/
 
If have further questions, we're here to help. 
You can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

May 2020
 
Do I have to go back to work? 
 
I work in retail and my company says it's starting to look at how we might reopen later in the summer. This is making me so anxious, even though I don't have any special health issues. I'm going to wear a mask, but not all the customers may do so. I used to take the bus to work, I don't have a car and I think it's too far to cycle. And I'm not even sure if my kids will be back at school by then! The thought of returning to work is keeping me awake at night. Do I have to go back to work?
 
The key here is “reasonable.” The government has published specific guidance for different businesses on the steps they can take to minimise coronavirus transmission. If you don’t think they’re complying, or are putting your health at risk, you should talk to them about this.
 
Similarly, they should listen to your concerns about using public transport. You could, for instance, ask to travel at a quieter time of day.
 
And the government has said that if you’re unable to work because of childcare issues your employer can continue to furlough you.
 
We would suggest approaching this as a problem that you and your boss can solve together. But if you do get a bad reaction, you could report your employer to the Health and Safety Executive. You should also get advice about your legal rights in this situation.
 
If have further questions, you can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

April 2020

Struggling to keep up with the bills following a drop in income due to coronavirus

My income has dropped due to coronavirus and I’m struggling to keep up with all of my bills. I rent my house from a private landlord and pay all the usual bills - electricity, water, and Council Tax. How best can I juggle them, and is there any help I can get from the government?

If your income is reduced because of coronavirus, you should check whether you’re entitled to sick pay or to claim benefits. You can check your eligibility for both sick pay and benefits on the Citizens Advice website.  If you’re already on existing benefits, these might also increase.

If you’re struggling to pay rent, talk to your landlord straight away. You should explain the situation and could ask for more time to pay, a temporary reduction in rent, or ask to catch up any missed payments by instalments. If you contact your nearest Citizens Advice an adviser can help you explain things to your landlord. If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, it’s a good idea to pay what you can afford and keep a record of what you offered.

The government passed an emergency law which means landlords have to give you three months notice to end certain tenancy types from 26 March. The court service has suspended all possession action for 90 days from 27 March. This means that even if you have been served a notice for eviction it’s unlikely it can be enforced during this time. You can find out more about what to do if you’re being evicted for rent arrears on the Citizens Advice website.

If you already claim Housing Benefit, you should tell the council your income has reduced. If you don’t claim it already, you might be entitled to help with housing costs from the government.

When it comes to your utilities, you should contact the provider as soon as possible. Depending on the type of bill, they may be able to arrange a payment plan, or have schemes in place for people in financial hardship. You should also talk to your local council, as your income has changed you might be entitled to a council tax reduction.

If you’re struggling to pay multiple bills, it’s important to sort out what’s known as ‘priority bills’ like energy bills or council tax over credit card bills. This is because the immediate consequences of not paying these things are much more serious. Information on the Citizens Advice website can help you with this. 

If have other questions, you can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


March 2020

Tickets for events

I’ve got tickets to an event next month and I’m not sure what will happen in light of coronavirus. I bought the tickets for myself and a few friends, one of them is worried about attending. What can I do?

Ticket holders who change their mind about going to see an event, such as a concert that is still going ahead, have no legal right to a refund.

If, however, the event is cancelled, your refund rights will depend on how you bought the ticket.

If you bought your ticket from an official seller and the organiser cancels, moves, reschedules, or makes the event behind closed doors, you should get a refund. This is the case even if it is cancelled due to a government ban on large events. The official seller is the best person to ask about how to get a refund.

If you bought your ticket from a ticket-reselling website, refunds will depend on the site's terms and conditions.

If you bought from a private seller and the event is cancelled or rescheduled then it is unlikely you will be able to recover your money. We recommend you contact the seller.

If you're due to go to an event, keep checking the information from the official seller or organiser to ensure you're up to date.

Unfortunately we’ve found that in these situations scammers prey on those who are affected.

If your event is cancelled and people or companies offer their services to try to recover money on your behalf, make sure that you're looking out for the signs of a potential scam.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


February 2020

Small business money worries

I run a small business. It’s been a very difficult six months for us, we lost a contract with one of our major clients and I just haven’t been able to replace it with new business. Now I’ve just received a huge energy bill. It feels like the last straw and I'm really stressed.  

I’m sorry to hear about your problems. The first thing to do is to call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. They can often help to resolve problems with energy suppliers.

It’s particularly important to do this quickly if you’re on a business contract and you’ve been told you’re going to be disconnected. If this happens an extra fee can be added to your bill, and then there’ll be another charge for being reconnected.

If you think the bill is wrong, get in touch with your energy company. If you are a microbusiness you can only be charged for gas or electricity you’ve used in the last 12 months - they can’t send you a new bill dating back longer than a year.

If the bill is correct, but you just can’t afford it, your energy supplier might agree to a payment plan. Work out a realistic budget so you know you’ll be able to afford the payments. Here at Citizens Advice we can help sole traders and individuals, but for other businesses there’s the Business Debtline on 0800 197 6026.

Moving forward, if your bills are being estimated you might be paying more than you need to. Set up a reminder on your phone to send monthly meter readings to your supplier or see if you can get a smart meter installed.

You may also find switching energy companies will save you money. You could also try energy efficiency measures such as switching off computers and other equipment overnight, using energy efficient light bulbs or making sure your premises are insulated.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


January 2020

Applying for Settled Status

I’m from Poland and I know I need to apply for Settled Status as the UK leaves the European Union. But I’m really confused about what documents I need in order to apply for me and my children. We’ve lived in England for six years and I’m worried that if we don’t apply before the end of the month, we might have to leave.

You don’t need to apply by the end of the month - your rights won’t change until 31 December 2020. However, you should apply as soon as you can in case of any delays. After the transition period ends on 31 December you might be asked to prove your right to do things like get a job or use a service like the NHS. Having your status sorted will make this more straightforward.

To get settled status, you need evidence that you’ve lived in the UK for 6 months out of every 12 months for 5 years in a row. As you say you and your children have lived in the UK for six years, you should be eligible for this.

In order to apply, you’ll need to have a few things. These include a passport or national ID card, a digital photo, your National Insurance number or proof of how long you've lived in the UK, a mobile number and an email address.

If you’ve been working, you can find your National Insurance number on your pay slip. If not you can contact HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500 to help find it.

It may be easier to make your children’s application after you’ve made your own. This way you’ll be able to ‘link’ your child’s application to yours, using the application number you got when you applied for yourself.

You can do this at any time after you’ve applied - you do not need to wait for a decision. And if your own application is successful, your child will get the same status as you.

In order to apply on behalf of your children, you will need to have proof of your relationship - for example a birth certificate.

If you need any extra help with your application, your local Citizens Advice is on hand to help.

You can also find more information about what Brexit means for you on the Citizens Advice website

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

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