Coronavirus unemployment crisis: What to do if you've lost your job

A view of a Sign on the Marylebone Jobcentre Plus office. The Bank of England today warned that parts of the economy might never recover from coronavirus - with unemployment set to rise by a million within months as GDP plunges 9.5\% - with the slump set to be the worst in a Century. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Unemployment is expected to rise due to the impact of the coronavirus lockdown. Credit: PA

Words by ITV News Multimedia Producer Charlie Bayliss

Coronavirus has affected almost every facet of people's lives since March, including how they work and their job security.

Figures show that unemployment in the UK has reached a three year high. Between March and September, the number of employees on payrolls dropped by 673,000 people.

The UK economy shrank by nearly 25% in the month after the lockdown - erasing 18 years of economic growth in the space of just 30 days.

ITV News has compiled a guide aimed at helping workers get back on their feet during these uncertain times.

What can I do if I’ve lost my job?

If you have lost your job due to coronavirus, the UK government has released guidance on what you can do next to help you through this period.

Applying for Universal Credit is one option, which you can apply for through the link here. Typically, you receive your first payment around five weeks after first applying online if your application is successful.

You may also be able to apply online for New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance or for the New Style Employment and Support Allowance, if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.

HR consultant and employment lawyer Amanda Lennon gives her advice to those worried about their future

Eligibility for the New Style Employment and Support Allowance is based on whether you’re at "high risk" because you have an underlying health condition and are shielding; if you’re self-isolating because you have coronavirus symptoms; or if you’re self-isolating because you’ve come into contact with someone who may have Covid-19.

If you do not have enough money to live on while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment you can ask for an advance payment.

How much am I entitled to through Universal Credit?

The benefit cap differs depending on your circumstances.

The rates are:

  • Single and under 25 - £342.72 per month

  • Single and 25 or over - £409.89 p/mth

  • In a couple and you’re both under 25 - £488.59 (for you both) p/mth

  • In a couple and either of you are 25 or over - £594.04 (for you both) p/mth

You may be entitled to more money on top of the standard allowance if you have children, co-dependents and other extenuating circumstances.

Employment expert Jenny Garrett shares her advice on how to be the best candidate for the job

"In terms of standing out, there's a lot of video calls and video interviews, I think what you wear can help you stand out, I think the way you talk about yourself and bring your skills together can help you stand out," Ms Garrett told ITV News.

"I think diversity is so much more important than its ever been for organisations to be more creative and innovative in their solutions and think about your customers.

"So, the things you perhaps hid away, maybe you're young, maybe you're old, maybe you come from a diverse background or think differently, these are the things to bring to the fore now and celebrate as an advantage to organisation.

"Remember where you're looking [when doing a video interview] make sure you're looking at the camera or green light most of us have.

"Set your stage so you've got a clear background, do tell your family or whoever you live with to keep it quiet and stay off the streaming so that you'll have a good signal.

"There's also lots of advantages to it, because you can have notes you can put some post-it notes around the side of the screen, or even have another screen up, which you don't normally have the advantage of in an interview.

"Practice, practice, practice, you can record yourself a lot now, so practice and see what you look like to the person who will be interviewing you."

What if I’m self-employed and coronavirus has hit my business?

People walk past a social distancing sign on Winchester High Street Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

If your business has been affected by coronavirus, you may also be entitled to Universal Credit.

You could be eligible for support through the Self Employment Income Support Scheme - but if you get the grant, your Universal Credit payments may stop or reduce.

You must provide information about your income and earnings, and at the end of each monthly assessment period you will need to report how much you earned from self-employment, even if that is nothing. You must also provide information about money paid into a pension and information about your business.

For more information on the options available to the self-employed, click here.

Payments are not currently being calculated using an assumed level of earnings, called a Minimum Income Floor. They are now based on your actual earnings.

The money will help millions of self-employed workers. Credit: PA

If you’re both self-employed and employed, your Universal Credit payment will be calculated based on your combined earnings from self-employment and employment.

Danielle Parsons, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said people may also be eligible for the SEISS scheme if you earn less than £50,000.

She said: "The key with all of these schemes is to check your eligibility as it is not always a one-size fits all. For example, you may still be eligible to SEISS if you earn over £50,000.

"It’s also worth looking into government bounce back loans and investigating the option of a business interruption loan.  

"Another avenue to explore at this time, would be deferring your income tax payments and finding out if there are any other benefits available. It’s advised you look at all avenues, cast the net wide and see what help is out there, before settling on one solution.”

I want to retrain in a new career - what options are available to me?

Hair salons and barbers across Scotland can now reopen, but unemployment is expected to rise. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Redundancy from your work can mean new opportunities, while adding new skills or gaining qualifications can help boost your employability.

If you need help financing your retraining, there are multiple options available.

A professional and career development loan can allow you to borrow anything from £300 to £10,000, regardless of savings or income, and you don’t need to pay anything back until you’ve finished your training.

'The Apprentice' interviewer Linda Plant shares her tips on how to get a job during the pandemic

You can also consider going to university, or applying for government grants and bursaries, while apprenticeships give you the opportunity to earn and learn at the same time.

For more details on where to apply for a professional career development loan, to university, government grants or apprenticeships, click on the links provided.

Are there any other tips or advice which can help me get through this?

Danielle Parsons, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, has given her top five legal must-knows for people who have lost their jobs and are trying to work out their next move.

They are:

  • Make a timeline - document everything that has happened on paper.

  • Know your rights - the ACAS website has helpful and accessible reading and guidance. This is a good place to start.

  • Think about your options - establish what you want to do next and how you can achieve it.

  • Get expert advice ASAP - from your union, free legal advice centre or an employment lawyer.

  • Insurance policy – check if you hold one as it could provide cover for bringing an employment tribunal claim, which must be bought within three months.

When it comes to landing your next job, Darain Faraz, a careers expert at LinkedIn, has these top tips to help you stand out from the crowd.

  • Identify jobs in-demand - LinkedIn data shows that roles such as Sales Representative, Customer Service Specialist, Graphic Designer and Digital Marketer are currently in-demand. These roles are available, accessible, offer a good wage, job stability and long-term employment prospects.

  • Identify your transferable skills - Think about how the skills you already have could be applied. For example, you may lack direct management experience - but you may have mentored a new colleague at the same level as you, or “managed upwards” when dealing with senior colleagues.

  • Enhance your skills with an online learning course - With stiff competition for jobs, re-skilling is key to finding new opportunities.

  • Refresh your LinkedIn profile - Be sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date to stand out to recruiters. LinkedIn members with a profile photo have 21 times more views and up to nine times more connection requests than members who don’t have one.

  • Lean on your online community - Regularly sharing your opinions and things that interest you, like an engaging video or article, is a great way to stay connected with your professional community.

  • Update your skills and endorsements - Don’t be afraid to show these off so employers will get a great idea of how you work, and which roles might be right for you.

  • Ace the (virtual) interview - Be sure to use the first few minutes of the call to build a personal connection, and put yourself at ease. Choose a quiet location and don’t be afraid to position yourself with a backdrop that tells the interviewer a little something about you.

Helen Onyejiji, who works at a Job Centre in Barking, east London, explains the difficulties facing young workers during the pandemic

She told ITV News: "In the job centre, I'm not just the work coach, you're either the doctor, the nurse, the councellor. There's so many things you have to do with these customers. "Sometimes they come in and they come with their head sunken down and they can't even look at you. But by the time they leave, you try and lift them up and encourage them what to do on a daily basis."

Losing my job has impacted my mental health, what can I do?

Becoming unemployed when you aren't expecting it can be extremely stressful as you begin to weigh up your next move.

It can have a detrimental impact on your mental health and wellbeing, and can lead to high stress levels and increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Dr Nick Zygouris, doctor of clinical psychology and specialist in mental health for MAXIMUS UK, said it is important to adopt good coping skills to manage you through this difficult period.

"Try to avoid putting off searching for a job, updating your CV and applying," he said.

"Even though all these activities can be anxiety provoking and putting them off could provide a small sense of relief, in the long run, they will make your stress levels increase and mental health deteriorate.

“While the negative impact of unemployment on mental health is well established, the experience of becoming unemployed and finding a new role can also have positive effects in the longer run."

Dr Earim Chaudry, a medical director at wellness platform Manual, said: “If you lose your job you may experience depression, a sense of loss of purpose, or anxiety about the future.

“It’s important to be kind to yourself during this time: keep a regular daily routine, exercise, eat well, and break your search for a new job into manageable chunks.

"Most importantly, when it gets too much, talk to someone – be that a friend or your GP.”

Other useful sources of money advice and information: