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Aberdeenshire MSP welcomes Covid-19 helpline to support Scottish businesses as new advice published for those on benefits


By David Porter


MSP Gillian Martin has welcomed the launch of a new helpline to provide businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on COVID-19.

The helpline, which is now live, will be open Monday to Friday, between 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Gillian Martin MSP
Gillian Martin MSP

Based at Scottish Enterprise’s existing call centre in Clydebank, advisers across Scotland will answer questions from businesses related to COVID-19.

The helpline will also help the Scottish Government identify the current challenges facing businesses.

On Thursday the First Minister confirmed that the Scottish and UK Governments are moving from the containment phase to delay, and that large gatherings of over 500 people will be cancelled to support the resilience of emergency services.

The Chief Medical Officer has advised people with mild symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 including continuing coughing, or a fever or a temperature of above 37.8 should self-isolate for seven days from Monday, March 16.

Those who have been in contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms should only self-isolate if they begin to experience symptoms.

The Aberdeenshire East MSP has also continued to stress the importance of everyone following the latest COVID-19 advice.

Welcoming the news, Gillian Martin MSP said: “Scotland is well-prepared for a significant outbreak of coronavirus but people have a vital role to play in helping us contain any outbreak by following the latest health and travel advice.

“This situation presents a significant risk to global and domestic economic activity.

"That is why today it is great to see the Scottish Government launching a business helpline which will provide companies in Scotland with the support and guidance they need to respond appropriately.

“I know from speaking to business owners in my constituency the real worries they have and so I am delighted that the Government are ensuring they are listening to business owners and identifying what further support is needed.

“I hope this provides reassurance that the Scottish Government are doing everything in their power to protect the workforce, businesses and economy.

“I’d also encourage everyone to refer to the new guidance on COVID-19 that includes workplace advice on reducing the spread of infection.”

The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660.

The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team.

Nationally a range of extra support and measures will be in place to help workers, benefit claimants and businesses affected by coronavirus.

Following announcements in the Budget, the Department for Work and Pensions is making temporary arrangements to support those impacted by coronavirus.

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.

Disabled and sick claimants who cannot attend a reassessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit will continue to receive their payments while their assessment is rearranged.

People who need to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a Fit Note.

When claimants tell us in good time that they are staying at home or that they have been diagnosed with coronavirus, they will not be sanctioned. We will review their conditionality requirements in their claimant commitment, to ensure they are reasonable.

Claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness.

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

It is understood that people who are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus may need financial support, and quickly.

Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.

The seven waiting days for ESA 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.

The government intend to legislate so this measure applies retrospectively from March 13.

Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on Government advice, not just those who are infected, from March 13 after regulations were laid on March 12.

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 the 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.

Businesses:

The Government wants to ensure businesses are supported to deal with the temporary economic impacts of an outbreak of coronavirus.

Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus.

This refund will be for up to two weeks per employee.

Other Government support for businesses can be found here.



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