AlMOST 650,000 workers have lost jobs since coronavirus hit and the UK went into lockdown.
If you are turning to benefits to help, our welfare expert Nichola Salvato helps answer your questions on Universal Credit.
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The coronavirus crisis claimed 74,000 extra jobs last month - and unemployment is expected to peak when the furlough scheme ends in Octover, new figures published today show
Unemployment is expected to treble this year to hit 3million, accoridng to predictions from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to "protect, support and create jobs".
Mr Sunak said in his Budget statement: "I will never accept unemployment as an unavoidable outcome."
But if you do find yourself losing your job, how quickly can you claim benefits?
In the latest instalment of our Universal Credit Q&A Nichola, who has four years experience in welfare rights, answers a question from one worried reader.
Do you have a question? Email [email protected]
Q: If I get made redundant when can I apply for universal credit?
Manuela, via email
Nichola replies: I’m very sorry to hear you are concerned about getting made redundant, the health crisis and lockdown has meant that in spite of government policies to support businesses, sadly, many companies are having to reduce their staff or just not been able to survive at all.
In answer to your question, the good news and the short answer is that you can apply for Universal Credit immediately.
If you know your employment is going to end on a specific date then you may be able to file your claim in advance.
Also, if you have been working for your organisation for two years or more by the end of your redundancy notice period you will be entitled to at least statutory redundancy pay and a paid notice period.
The statutory rates are as follows:
Plus one week notice for every year you were employed. You can calculate your redundancy pay here.
Any redundancy payment you receive under £30,000 will be tax free although any final wages plus holiday pay will be subject to tax and national insurance as usual.
If your company has gone into liquidation or gone bust and cannot pay you, you can make a claim for your redundancy payments directly to the government.
If you apply for Universal Credit your payment may be reduced when you get your redundancy pay or final wages.
This is because any redundancy pay or wages are seen as income and your UC payment is reduced by 63p for every £1 earned over your work allowance - known as the taper rate.
The Sun wants the taper rate reduced and work allowance increase, which has been highlighted in its Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
If your redundancy payout pushes your savings above £6,000 then your UC payment will be reduced by £4.35 for every £250 you have in savings.
If you have more than £16,000 in savings you won't be able to sign on.
And don’t forget that once you apply for Universal Credit there will be a five week wait before you receive any money.
The Sun wants to reduce the wait time from five weeks down to two.
You can get an advance loan but you will have to pay this back over the course of a year.
It's worth checking if you're eligible for new style Job Seekers Allowance if you or your partners earnings mean you can't claim Universal Credit.
That means if you do receive a larger redundancy payment you may be better off claiming new style JSA.
You can telephone HMRC on 0300 200 3500 and they will let you know if you have paid enough national insurance to qualify for New Style JSA and you can apply online here.
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In addition to benefits and redundancy pay, the government do run a number of support programs for people who have recently been made redundant, they can include free training and help with searching or applying for jobs which may be helpful.
I do hope that this is useful Manuela, or even better, you are able to keep your job and you don’t have to rely on this information at all.
Wishing you the very best of luck.