Address: Room 254 1st floor Civic Centre Port Talbot SA13 1PJ | Telephone: 01639 763820 | Email: unison@npt.gov.uk

The situation is changing daily — please see latest details and links below


Please see below link to announcement from Welsh Government confirming that the measure being developed by the UK Government will apply to Welsh tenants.

https://gov.wales/greater-protection-tenants-and-landlords-affected-coronavirus-wales


25 March 2020

Coronavirus: UNISON helping members financially

UNISON’s dedicated welfare charity is still operating during the current health crisis

See more information here: https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2020/03/coronavirus-unison-helping-members-financially/ 

 

23 March 2020

Benefits update in relation to Coronavirus 20/03/2020 

 

For people in work: 

 

For the first 7 days of sickness employees can self-certify.  After this period of time you usually have to provide a fit note from your GP.  However if you are displaying symptoms of Coronavirus and those who or have been told to self-isolate because of this disease, the latest advice is that employers need to be flexible on this requirement https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19.   

 

Claimants claiming SSP because of Covid-19 or because they have been told to self- isolate because they or a household member is ill will be paid SSP from the first day of sickness.  Those who choose to self-isolate in case they come in to contact with the virus would not be considered sick.  It would be good practice for employers to facilitate homeworking for these people. 

 

You must be an employee to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, you do not have to have a written contract of employment.  SSP is paid for the first 28 weeks of sickness or until your contract of employment ends; claimants will then have to claim a sickness benefit.  Two or more periods of sickness that are separated by eight weeks or less are linked and treated as one single period.  Your employer cannot dismiss you from employment to avoid paying you SSP – they will still be liable.   

 

People who are employed and receiving Tax Credits 

 

If you meet the qualifying criteria for working tax credit (i.e. depending on your circumstances working either 16/24/30 hours); you are treated as still being in work for the first 28 weeks of sickness when: 

 

  • You are being paid Statutory Sick pay; 

  • Being paid new-style contributory Employment and Support Allowance 

  • You are incapable of work due to pregnancy  

  • Receiving national insurance credits because you are incapable of work or have limited capability for work 

  •  

A change of your earnings is not a change of circumstances that you have to report; however by reporting this change you are reducing the risk of being over or underpaid when they finalise your award at the end of the financial year.  If you have had a change to your earnings and want your tax credits recalculated you should ring Tax Credits on 0345 300 3909. 

 

People who are employed and receiving Housing Benefit / Council Tax Reduction  

 

Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit.  If you have any change in your income (it decreases or increases) it is important that you notify your Local Authority as soon as possible who will then be able reassess your entitlement to this benefit and to prevent any underpayment or overpayment.  

 

People who are employed and claiming Universal Credit 

 

If you are working and claiming Universal Credit and have been infected with Covid 19 or you are required to self-isolate because you are ill or a member of your household is ill you will be treated as having limited capability for work.  You will not be required to submit fit notes to the Department for Work and Pensions nor will you be called for a work capability assessment.  As you will be treated as having limited capability for work, your work related requirements will be work focused interviews and work preparation.   

 

You should write all changes on your journal and keep the Department for Work and Pensions informed of your situation. 

 

People who are employed and not claiming any benefits 

 

If you are claiming benefit for the first time because you have been infected with Covid-19 or you are required to self-isolate you will be treated as having limited capability for work.  This means that you will not have to provide fit notes nor have to attend a work capability assessment.   

 

There are two benefits that you may be entitled to claim: 

 

To qualify for this benefit you must have met the national insurance contribution conditions and not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.  This benefit can be paid after SSP even if you still have a contract of employment. This is a contributory benefit, and entitlement depends on your circumstances as the claimant. There are no capital or income rules other than any occupational pension over £85.00 per week that is paid to you as the claimant can affect the amount you receive.  Claimants may also qualify for Universal Credit to top up this benefit. 

 

Universal Credit 

 

?Those needing to claim a means tested benefit (entitlement will depend on your capital, income of you and your partner) for the first time will now have to claim Universal Credit unless they meet the SDP gateway conditions.   

 

Universal Credit replaced Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; Housing Benefit; Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support; Income Related Jobseekers Allowance.   

 

To qualify you must have less than £16,000 in capital and meet the means test.  The means test will differ depending on your personal circumstances and what other income or earnings you have coming in and the amount of savings you have between £6,000 to £16,000.  Claimants may qualify for this benefit if they are in work; not working; sick or have caring responsibilities. 

 

Universal Credit can be the only income you have coming in or top up other income (e.g. statutory sick pay, new-style ESAto the level that the Government says that you need to live on.  

 

Statutory Sick Pay and other income is taken into account when calculating any entitlement to Universal Credit.  For example, if you are single aged 25+ and have no liability to pay rent, you will qualify for a payment of Universal Credit of £60.52 per month. 

 

A claim for Universal Credit will end entitlement to any of the other means tested benefits (Working Tax Credit; Child Tax CreditIncome Related Jobseekers Allowance; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support; Housing Benefit).  If you are receiving one of these benefits you are advised to have a better off calculation to check if you are better off staying on your current benefits with adjustments or claim Universal Credit. 

 

All claimants must sign a claimant commitment and if you are claiming because Covid -19 or the requirement to self-isolate because you are ill or a member of your household is ill, your work related requirements for your claimant commitment will be work focused interview and work preparation.  The Department for Work and Pensions will tell you what to do. 

 

Council Tax Reduction 

 

Council Tax Reduction provides assistance to those who have a liablility to pay council tax.  It is means tested so it will depend on the income and capital of you and your partner; but it can be claimed whether you are in or out of work.  This reduction is under claimed, so it is important that you check your entitlement with your Local Authority 

 

Benefits for people who are looking for work: 

 

For those looking for work there are two benefits that you may be claiming;  Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit.  To qualify for either of these benefits you must have a signed jobseekers agreement / claimant commitment outlining your work related requirements and what is expected of you.   

 

 

This benefit is made up of two elements:  Income Related Jobseekers Allowance and ‘New Style’ Jobseekers Allowance.   

 

If you are receiving Income Related Jobseekers Allowance it either means that you are unable to claim Universal Credit because you meet the SDP gateway conditions or you have been claiming this benefit prior to full roll out of Universal Credit.  Entitlement will continue providing you still meet the criteria or until you are managed migrated over to Universal Credit. 

 

To qualify for ‘New-Style’ Jobseekers Allowance you must meet the relevant national insurance contributions conditions.  This is a contributory benefit, so entitlement depends on your circumstances; It is not means tested, so it doesn’t matter about the income of your partner if you have one.  Income that is taken into account is any earnings you receive for part time work (under 16 hours), less the relevant earnings disregards (usually £5) and occupational pensions of more than £50.00.  Most other income is disregarded providing you continue to meet the basic conditions.  New-Style Jobseekers Allowance is paid for a maximum amount of six months.  Universal Credit is the means tested benefit that can top up any contributory JSA. 

 

If you become sick whilst claiming Jobseekers Allowance you can continue to claim this benefit.  The Job Centre can relax your work related requirements and treat you as available for work for up to two two-week periods of sickness in the last twelve months or up to 13 weeks, if you have been or expect to be unable to work for more than two weeks but not more than 13 weeks or you have already had your two two-week periods of sickness. 

 

Unfortunately to be treated as sick for Jobseekers Allowance you will require a fit note after seven days of self-certification.  At the time of writing the Government has not changed the regulations like they have for Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance to relax this condition. 

 

This benefit replaced new claims for Income Related Jobseekers Allowance; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Housing Benefit; Income Support; Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit unless you meet the SDP gateway conditions. 

If you are claiming this benefit because you are looking for work, you will have a signed claimant commitment outlining your work related requirements within the all work related requirement group.  Claimants who have become infected with Covid-19 or have been told to self-isolate you will be treated as having limited capability for work and will not have to provide fit notes or undergo a work capability assessment.   

 

This means that your claimant commitment will be relaxed and you will be required to undertake work focused interviews and work preparation only.   

 

Work Related Requirements 

 

To qualify for the above benefits your jobseekers agreement / claimant commitment will outline your work related requirements; these include Work Focused Interviews; Work Preparation; Work Search and Work Availability.  Failing to comply with your work related requirements can result in your benefit being sanctioned. 

 

The Department for Work and Pensions have said that if you are unable to attend the Job Centre for an appointment and you tell them in ‘good time’ because you have either COVID-19 or have to self-isolate you will not be sanctioned and they will adjust your work requirements to ensure that they are reasonable.  They will then remove the requirement to be available for work and work search.  You will however still be subject to undertaking work preparation and work focused interviews. 

 

If you are sanctioned because you have not informed them in ‘good time’ you need to ask them to revise their decision and appeal it if necessary. 

 

However, the Job Centre are removing the requirement for face to face appointments and all necessary contact will be made via the telephone and journals.  They will continue to support claimants’ fact to face for the most vulnerable. 

 

Disability Benefits: 

 

Attendance Allowance 

Disability Living Allowance;  

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit;  

 

 

These benefits are for people with a long term illnesses and/or disabilities.  To qualify you must have had or expect to have the condition for a ‘qualifying’ period and or for a future period.  These change depending on the disability benefit. Which disability benefit you claim will depend on a number of factors.  They can be claimed if you are in work and/ or in receipt of other benefits. 

 

New claims: 

New claims for these benefits will continue as normal.    

 

Existing claims: 

Anyone already receiving these benefits will continue to receive their current payments as normal.  If your claim is due to be reviewed, your benefit will continue to be paid until a decision has been made. 

 

Health care assessments 

All face to face assessments have been suspended.  Anyone who has a scheduled appointment for an assessment from the 17th March 2020 onwards does not need to attend.  Alternative arrangements will be made to carry out either paper-based assessments or assessments undertaken over the telephone. It is advised that as much supportive evidence is submitted at the point of claim/review. 

 

Appeal hearings 

 

If you have challenged a Social Security Benefit or Tax Credit decision and have requested this appeal to be heard at an oral hearing, at this moment in time, these are currently still being heard.  However, due to the ever changing environment, please check before you set off. The following website has the latest information:   https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-telephone-and-video-hearings-during-coronavirus-outbreak 

 

Changes to jobcentre appointments (19 March 2020) 

People receiving benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for at least 3 months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020. People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended. 

People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible. 

Jobcentres remain open, and will continue to support people who are not able to use phones and online, including homeless people. 

 

For people already claiming support 

Special arrangements will be in place for people in receipt of benefits who cannot attend reassessments or jobcentre appointments because they are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus. 

 

The Severe Disability Premium (SDP)  

 

This is a complex and confusing area, as the Severe Disability Premium is not a benefit.  Means tested benefits are made up of personal allowances (if you are a single person or a couple); and premiums which reflect your personal circumstances.  Personal Allowances and premiums are added together and the total amount is the level that the Government say that you need to live on, this is called your applicable amount. Your applicable amount is then compared to what other income (if any) you have coming in.   

 

To qualify for the Severe Disability Premium you must be: 

 

  • Receiving a qualifying benefit.  A qualifying benefit is either: 

  • Disability Living Allowance Care Component (paid at the middle or higher rate); or  

  • Personal Independence Payment Daily Living Component; or 

  • Attendance Allowance; or  

  • Armed Forces Independence Payment; or 

  • Constant Attendance Allowance 

AND 

  • Living alone or those aged over the age of 18 who live in your household are also in receipt of a qualifying benefit (see above) or they are certified as severely sight impaired or blind by a consultant ophthalmologist. 

AND 

 

  • No one is paid Carer’s Allowance for looking after you; or 

  • Receives the Carer’s Element in their Universal Credit maximum amount for looking after you.  

 

 

The Severe Disability Premium (SDP) Gateway Conditions 

 

Claimants who have this severe disability premium included in their applicable amount for either Income Support; Income Based Jobseekers Allowance; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Housing Benefit (these are referred to as legacy benefits) are prevented from claiming Universal Credit providing that 

 

  • This premium was included in their applicable amount within the last month; and 

  • Following your change of circumstances you will continue to satisfy the conditions for this premium. 

 

Claimants who meet the SDP gateway conditions can claim or continue to receive their legacy benefit. 

The Department for Works and Pensions have issued the following guidelines

For people who need to make a new claim for financial support:


 We understand people who are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus may need financial support.


 •Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive an advance without physically attending a jobcentre.


•The seven waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance for new claimants suffering from coronavirus or required to stay at home will not apply, so it will be payable from day one.

Employees and self-employed people:


To make sure people in work can take the necessary time off to stay at home if they are suffering from coronavirus or to prevent its spread, changes have been made to Statutory Sick Pay and how Universal Credit supports self-employed claimants.


 •People who cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness. We intend this measure to apply retrospectively from 13 March.


 •Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on Government advice, not just those who are infected, this measure will apply from 13 March. Employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.


 •If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from NHS 111 Online instead of having to get a Fit Note from their doctor. This is currently under development and will be made available soon.


 •Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.

19 March 2020

Joint Statement by the Chief Executive and Chair of the Joint Trade Unions

Dear Colleagues,

Both of us are well aware of the concerns being expressed by staff in the current circumstances.

One of the strengths of this Council is the strong social partnership between the authority and the trade unions.  As you would expect, that dialogue is now ongoing daily with the interests of our staff and trade union members at the forefront of our thinking.

We are working through a range of issues but have agreed the following key principles:

  • The Council will follow government advice (backed by the science) to ensure that social distancing measures and protection of vulnerable groups amongst the workforce are fully implemented. This has very largely been done already;
     
  • However, we are clear that the Council must continue to provide critical services to our communities, particularly with the most vulnerable in mind.  This is why, for example, we have agreed a temporary redeployment policy; and
     
  • We are operating on the principle of “no detriment” (financially or otherwise to staff) provided the policies and procedures agreed are followed.

 

What this means is that we are encouraging sensible dialogue between staff and managers to address the circumstances of individuals based on evidence (not assumption); but operating within the framework that the Council has put in place.  Put another way, we are looking to managers and staff to support each other during this difficult time, particularly on issues such as childcare given the announcement made by Welsh Ministers yesterday.

Steven Phillips                                              Mark Fisher

Chief Executive                                             Chair, Joint Trade Unions

 

 


This is an internet link (accessible to those outside of the Council) providing information in relation to the Coronavirus – it also includes a video message from the Leader and Chief Exec. https://www.npt.gov.uk/staff

www.npt.gov.uk/coronavirus -  external / residents


UNISON Neath Port Talbot Branch Statement — 17/03/2020

The Coronavirus (CV) pandemic presents a crisis like no other in our memory. We have serious concerns for our members safety with the governments ‘business as usual’ model followed by central government and note the radical measures taken across Europe and the world to contain the spread of CV.

We fully support the local authority in calling for the Welsh Assembly to fully fund extra costs incurred by NPT in the measures that have to be taken regarding CV, including the measures we are calling for below in trying to ameliorate the impact.

We will call on Cymru/Wales Unison to support that councils are given the costs incurred thus far and future projections of spending by the WAG to fully meet the costs of combatting Coronavirus.

Clearer guidance to staff and managers is needed than has taken place so far.

We request that the council implement the following during the period of the Coronavirus Pandemic and communicate this to staff. While we call for the measures below to be implemented immediately we are requesting to have a presence on the weekly emergency planning discussions with senior management to discuss the local authority’s response to the CV, keeping vital services going and CV’s impact on the workforce and public.

  1. If staff have to self-isolate - noting that government advice is for households of those at risk/unwell to self-isolate - and cannot work from home, they will be paid their usual salary.
  2. Sickness during self-isolation or having CV will not be included as a trigger for the sickness absence policy.
  3. For CV-related illness, full sick pay to be paid to all staff regardless of length of service or where entitlement has reduced or expired.
  4. No reduction in pay, including any worker having to take time-away to look after their children/dependants, or as a result of workplace closure
  5. HR, Managers & Unions to explore new working arrangements including TEAMS & SKYPE where necessary to facilitate council business, (Restructures, Disciplinaries, Grievances, Capabilities Appeals, HR Policy reviews & Monthly trade union meetings) where ever possible consideration for postponement should be considered.
  6. Workers over 60 and those with underlying health conditions are allowed to self- isolate and/or work from home if possible, consideration for alternative duties outside the employee’s normal duties to be assessed to facilitate home working and assist the authority’s business needs.
  7. All managers to update their Risk assessments to be undertaken for how best to protect frontline workers who have to continue working and come in contact with the public and must include PPE as a priority.
  8. Adequate supplies for handwashing should be provided to peripatetic workers as PPE and if not, available employee safeguard should be implemented where the employee self-risk assesses to ensure personal safety.
  9. Employees who are performing alternative tasks and duty’s outside their normal role specifications will not suffer any financial detriment for volunteering for a different role. Training and guidance to be provided about the nature of the role/job.
  10. Any worker carrying out work at a higher grade (that they have the skills and knowledge for) will be paid the difference between their grade and the higher grade or honorarium will be considered. Staff who carry out work at a lower grade will not suffer a reduction in salary.
  11. The council should communicate with employees in a daily basis giving clear guidance about what the council is doing across the services. Communication should be in a number of formats e.g. email, flyers, council website (not just intranet) and there should be feedback to ensure all employees such as workers in depots etc. are getting the message.
  12. Urgent reviews/assessments of new ways of working in workplaces postponed; staff and unions to be consulted to avoid unnecessary contact with the public
  13. Counselling available to staff as required
  14. All hot desking must be stopped immediately and a minimum of two metre separation be implemented immediately.
  15. NPT Council to seek confirmation from all contractors that they have contracts with that they are providing full pay to their staff that are off sick or self-isolating or needing to look after their children, we appreciate that there is no legal enforcement on these issues with third sector partnerships, but through the Ethical Supply chain we would expect the authority to remind all companies that there is a moral standing that will be considered when contracts are to be renewed.
  16. NPT Council work with the recognised Trade Unions in partnership to resolve the anxieties of all their workforce and to protect staff members Health and Safety also pay and conditions if workplaces have to close .

UNISON Neath Port Talbot

Mark Fisher Branch Chair

Jane Gebbie Branch Secretary

Joe Donnelly Regional Organiser UNISON