Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): £500 payment for health and social care staff - questions and answers

Answers to frequently asked questions by health and social care staff following the announcement of a £500 payment for staff, by the First Minister on 30 November 2020.

Published:
23 Dec 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): £500 payment for health and social care staff - questions and answers

This publication sets out answers to frequently asked questions by health and social care staff following the announcement of a £500 payment by the First Minister on 30 November.

General information

Q. The payment is “pro-rata”.  What does that mean?

It means that full time staff will receive the full £500 and staff who work part-time will receive a proportion of the full amount based on the amount of time they have worked. So someone who works 50% of full time hours would receive £250, for instance. 

Q. The payment is “non-consolidated”.  What does that mean?

Non-consolidated means it is not pensionable and does not create a new baseline for future pay calculations.

Q. Will I pay tax on the payment?

The payment will be liable to tax, national insurance contributions and student loan repayments, where appropriate.

Q. I receive Universal Credit. Will my Universal Credit be reduced if I receive the payment?

  • the ability to exempt the payment from benefit calculations is not within the current powers of the Scottish Government. As such, Universal Credit entitlements may be reduced following the assessment period(s) in which the payment is received
  • recipients who are in receipt of Universal Credit need to notify their work coach of the change in their circumstances in order to avoid any overpayments which may result in issues with their claim
  • NHS Scotland employees will be given the option to take the payment in instalments over three months or they will have the option to delay receiving the payment should they feel the need to consult their Work Coach with regards to the effect on the benefits.  Social care employers will also be asked to give staff this option.

Q. Will my Council Tax Reduction be effected if I receive the £500 payment?

The legislation put in place in support of the £500 payment means that it should be disregarded in the calculation of Council Tax Reduction.  However, staff in receipt of Council Tax Reduction should inform their local authority that they have received the COVID payment in order to ensure that it does not affect their reduction. As your local authority may request verification of the payment, please retain your payslip for this purpose.

Q. What about the effect on other benefits I receive?

If you are receiving other ‘legacy benefits’, your entitlement could be affected. If your entitlement ends as a result, you will not be able to claim these benefits again and will need to claim Universal Credit instead if you still need support.

You should get advice as soon as possible before receiving the payment.

Legacy benefits are Housing Benefit (if you are under pension age), Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, and income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

The following benefits may also be affected: 

  • Pension credit 
  • Carer’s Allowance – the payment will be treated as earnings. If it means you exceed the weekly earnings threshold of £128, you could temporarily lose entitlement to Carer’s Allowance.  Please note that the qualifying date for the next Carer’s Allowance Supplement is 12 April. If you lose entitlement to Carer’s Allowance on that date, you will not receive the June supplement of £231.40

If you want to find out more about how this payment may affect your benefits or tax credits, then contact:

Citizens Advice:

Bureaux | Citizens Advice Scotland

HMRC:

Contact HMRC - GOV.UK

DWP:

Contact Jobcentre Plus - GOV.UK

Q. Will the payment affect my student loan deductions?

Student loan repayments are based on a borrower’s weekly or monthly earnings as a proportion of the annual repayment threshold, currently £19,390 for the 20-21 tax year (Plan 1). Scottish borrowers who are on Plan 1 student loans will therefore repay 9% of any income over the weekly rate of £372 or the monthly rate of £1,615. Any student whose total annual earnings does not breach the annual repayment threshold (£19,390) will be eligible to apply to the Student Loans Company for a refund. The annual repayment threshold for Scottish borrowers will increase to £25,000 from the 21-22 tax year in April 2021.

Q. I receive Scottish Child Payment, will the £500 payment affect this?

Scottish Child Payment is paid as a top-up of a number of different qualifying benefits. The qualifying benefits are:

  • Universal Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

These qualifying benefits take account of your income. The £500 payment may be considered as part of your income towards these benefits, by the DWP. It is possible that the payment may put your income over the threshold at which your qualifying benefit is stopped.

If your qualifying benefit is stopped as a result of receiving this £500 payment, your Scottish Child Payment would also stop.

It is important that you notify Social Security Scotland as soon as you become aware that your qualifying benefit has been stopped, to avoid any overpayment.

If you want to find out more about how this payment may affect your benefits or tax credits, then contact: 

Citizens Advice:
Bureaux | Citizens Advice Scotland 

HMRC:
Contact HMRC - GOV.UK

DWP:
Contact Jobcentre Plus - GOV.UK 

Q. If my Scottish Child Payment stops as a result of this £500 payment, will I need to apply again?

The rules around Scottish Child Payment allow your claim to restart automatically if your qualifying benefit is reinstated within 12 weeks of it stopping due to an increase in the level of your income. Providing your qualifying benefit restarts within 12 weeks of it stopping due to this payment, your Scottish Child Payment should reinstate automatically.

You may wish to discuss this with the relevant department responsible for delivery of your qualifying benefit. 

For directly employed NHS Scotland staff

Q. Who is eligible for the payment?

The following people are eligible for the payment:

  • staff who have been employed in NHS Scotland for a minimum of one month’s continuous service between 17 March and 30 November 2020, including those who have since left or retired from NHS employment
  • bank workers, locums paid through NHS Payroll, staff on honorary contracts and staff covered by the Two-Tier Agreement, providing they have at least one month’s continuous service between 17 March and 30 November 2020
  • staff who accepted and worked on temporary contracts to aid the pandemic response, including students who worked under temporary contracts but who have since returned to University, providing they have at least one month’s continuous service between 17 March and 30 November 2020

The following people are not eligible for the payment:

  • agency Staff
  • clinical students on unpaid placements within health and social care
  • Board Chairs and Non-Execs
  • people working under IR35 arrangements or Direct Engagement models
  • workers paid on a “fee” basis
  • people on career breaks
  • employees dismissed for gross misconduct

Q. How will I receive the payment?

The payment will be distributed through NHS Board Payroll Departments in staff salary payments. Those who have left NHS employment will be contacted in due course. There have been reports of scammers calling people, claiming to be from the Scottish Government and asking for bank details so that the payment could be made. Staff should be aware that there is no reason for staff to disclose personal or financial details. The Scottish Government will not call anyone about this payment. 

Q. When will I receive my payment?

Most staff will receive the payment in February salaries.  Some staff may have special circumstances which will mean a later payment is necessary.  In addition, some staff will have chosen to receive their payments in three monthly/13 week instalments from February to April, and some staff will have chosen to pause the payment whilst they consult their Work Coach to ascertain how this will affect their benefits. 

Q. I was part time during the qualifying period and worked additional hours, will this be reflected in my payment?

Yes, your part time hours, including additional hours worked, will be averaged over the qualifying period. Your payment will therefore be based on your average hours worked per week, pro rata to the full time payment of £500.

Q. I was full time during the qualifying period and worked overtime, will this be reflected in my payment?

No, overtime hours above full time are excluded for the purpose of calculating the payment. Your payment will be capped at £500.

Q. I worked full time and part time during the qualifying period, how will this affect my payment?

If you worked full time hours for a period of one month or more then you will receive £500.  If not, a pro rata calculation will be done, based on the period you were full time and the period you were part time. Any excess hours worked when you were part time will also be taken into account.

Q. Are those on sick or maternity leave, or staff who were shielding, eligible?

Yes, eligible staff who, between 17 March and 30 November 2020 were shielding or were on sickness or maternity leave, will receive the payment.

Q. Will I receive this payment if I have left or retired from NHS Scotland?

Everyone who meets the qualifying criteria is eligible for the payment.  In this case at least one month’s continuous service in NHS Scotland between 17 March and 30 November is required. So former NHS Scotland staff who retired between 17 April and 30 November are eligible, providing they meet the qualifying criteria.  NHS Boards will contact leavers/retirees who are due a payment to advise of this and to confirm bank details.

Q. Will I receive this payment if I left one NHS board and commenced employment in another NHS Board?

Providing you meet the qualifying criteria in either of your employments then you will receive the payment, but will be capped at £500 if appropriate.  Any payment due from the leaver Board will be processed by your current employer, subject to the £500 capping.

Q. I left/retired from NHS Scotland, do I need to contact my relevant Health Board to claim any payment?

No, your NHS Board will contact you if you are eligible for a payment. If you commenced employment in another NHS Board before 30 November 2020 then any payment from your leaver Board will be processed by your current employer.

Q. What about situations where someone has died in service or left and subsequently died?

Everyone who meets the qualifying criteria is eligible for the payment.  In this case at least one month’s continuous service in NHS Scotland between 17 March and 30 November is required. In situations where staff died in service between 17 April and 30 November or left in that time having fulfilled the qualifying criteria and subsequently died, the payment would be payable to their estate.

Q. The payment is capped at £500. How will the service prevent someone who has moved post during the qualifying period receiving two payments in excess of £500?

NHS Payroll department are setting up a process to match anonymised payroll records across Boards to ensure consistent application of the £500 cap, meaning no-one should receive a double payment in excess of £500. 
Q. I am a student. Will I receive the payment?

Those students who had paid contracts in the NHS during the qualifying period, providing they meet the other qualifying criteria, will be eligible.  Students on normal placements for their courses will not be eligible as they are not directly employed by the NHS during this time.

Q. I left half way through the qualifying period. How will my payment be worked out?

For staff who left during the qualifying period, providing they had at least one month’s continuous service during the period 17 March and 30 November 2020, the payment will be worked out pro rata to their period of service.

Q. I started employment half way through the qualifying period. How will my payment be worked out?

For staff who join during the qualifying period, providing they have at least one month’s continuous service during the period 17 March and 30 November 2020, the Covid payment will be worked out pro rata to their period of service.

Q. I started with NHS Scotland on 15 November this year. Will I get the payment?

The qualifying criteria stipulates one month’s continuous service in NHS Scotland between 17 March and 30 November 2020 so anyone who joined the service after 31 October 2020 will not qualify.

Q. Will this payment be included in my holiday pay calculation?

No, the additional £500 stands in isolation and will not be included in the calculation of any payment which is based on a reference period, such as holiday pay, sick pay or occupational maternity pay.

Q. I am in receipt of a protection payment, will the Covid payment be offset against my protection earnings?

No, the payment will not be offset against protection earnings.

Q. Will the payment be used in any future Organisational Change protection calculation of earnings?

No, the Covid payment will not be included as earnings for any Organisational Change protection.

Q. I work term time hours, what will my payment be based on?

Your payment will be based on the hours that you have been paid for during the qualifying period.

Q.  What about situations where staff are concerned about how the £500 pro rata payment will interact with the benefits they receive?

Staff were allowed to opt out of receiving the payment in February by letting their Board Payroll Department know by 5 February 2021. This will give people more time to consider the matter.  Nobody should be financially worse off as a result of the payment. However, individuals in receipt of Universal Credit may wish to discuss any potential impact with their work coach before making a decision on the payment. Providing staff then inform their Employer by 5 July 2021 that they do want to receive the payment, they can still get the £500. 

Read both the opt out and opt in forms.

Q. If I decide to opt back in, can I still have the payment spread over three months?

Yes.  The form allowing staff to opt back in, also allows individuals to choose to either receive one payment of £500 or to spread that over three months.  

Q. Why does someone who only worked for 5 weeks during the qualifying period (17 March 2020 to 30 November 2020) get the same as someone who worked for the whole of that period?

Providing someone fulfils the criteria of one month’s continuous service within the qualifying period, their payment is based on their average hours whilst working in NHS Scotland. Employers and Staff Side representative discussed in detail what the most practical and logistically feasible way of allocating the payment would be and this is the approach which was arrived at in partnership. 

For those working for independent contractors

Q. Are people who work as or for independent contractors, in the NHS, eligible?

Yes, the following workforce groups are all eligible:

  • General Practitioners and their practice teams, including those in 2C practices
  • NHS Dentists and dental teams, including administrative staff and practice managers
  • Community Pharmacists and the pharmacy teams
  • Community optometrists and their optometry practice teams

Q. How will pro-rata payments be calculated for those groups?

Independent contractors will be asked to declare the Whole Time Equivalence of their partners and all staff so that pro-rated calculations can be made. Pro-rated means that full time staff will receive the full £500 and staff who work part-time will receive a proportion of the full amount based on the amount of time they work. So someone who works 50% of full time hours would receive £250, for instance. 

Q. How will these groups be paid?

The bonus will be distributed through independent contractors to their partners and staff.

Q. Is there a process for locums and sessional paid staff who don’t have a regular practice?

There will be a separate claim form for locums and sessional paid staff who cannot have a claim made on their behalf by a single appropriate service provider. This will be provided in due course.

For those working in Scotland’s social care sector

Q. Who is eligible for the £500 payment?

Staff employed in registered adult social care or children’s residential care services who have been employed for a minimum of a continuous 4 week period between 17 March and 30 November 2020 will be eligible for the payment, including those who have since left or retired. 

The process for third, voluntary, charitable and private sector employers has now closed.

Read the full guidance for local authorities.

Agency workers, self-employed or unpaid carers are not eligible. 

Q. Are those on sick or maternity leave, or staff who were shielding, eligible?

Yes, eligible staff who, between 17 March and 30 November 2020 were:

  • shielding
  • on sick leave
  • on maternity, paternity, adoption leave
  • or furloughed

will receive a payment pro rata to the normal hours you work.  

Q. I work in social care on a zero hours or flexible contract. Will I receive the payment?

Staff must be part of the paid workforce. They can be:

  • full-time or part-time
  • subject to a zero hours or flexible employment contract
  • subject to a permanent or temporary contract

You will receive a pro rata payment based on the hours that you have worked.

Q. I work in the private sector. Will I receive the payment?

This payment is for staff employed in adult social care in the statutory (local authority or health board), third, voluntary, charitable and private sectors, and personal assistants who are employed directly by the person they support or their family.

Q. I work for two social care providers. Will I get the payment twice?

You will be entitled to a pro rata payment from each employer capped at £500 in total.

It is your responsibility to make sure that if you work for more than one social care employer AND work more than full time, that you do not receive more than the maximum payable of £500. 

You should notify one of your employers that you work more than full time and ask for your payment to be reduced from that employer.

You should also notify your employer of any duplicate or excessive payments that you have received.

Q. I work in social care, how will I receive the £500 payment?

Your employer will make the payment to you through your normal payroll. They may ask you for information to assist with this.

Q. I work in social care, when will the payment be made?

There are approximately 170,000 people working for 1,200 employers, plus personal assistants in adult social care. Due to the vast number of employers in the social care sector, setting up eligibility guidelines and a payment process has taken time. We expect the majority of payments to be made by the end of April with some payments in May.

 Q. Will hospice staff be eligible for the £500 payment?

Yes. Hospice staff will be eligible to receive the payment.  Hospice care providers will be contacted separately about payments.

Q. What is the mechanism for allocating this funding to hospices?

A process for delivering this funding to hospice staff is being put in place.

Q.  What about Personal Assistants?

Personal Assistants are directly paid by their employer who receives public funds through Self-Directed Support (option 1) or from Independent Living Fund Scotland. Successful applicants will receive payments from Independent Living Fund Scotland, who have agreed to administer payments on behalf of the Scottish Government. As with other health and social care workers, Personal Assistants will receive a pro rata payment of up to a maximum of £500, depending on the number of hours they work in an average week.

The application process for Personal Assistants has now gone live. The deadline for applications will be midnight on the 25 August 2021.

Advice and guidance can be accessed here: Coronavirus (COVID-19) - social care workforce £500 payment: guidance for personal assistants.

A dedicated helpline has been set up to support applicants 0800 841 1321, please call this number if you require a hardcopy of the application.

Q. Will my personal data by shared by my employer with anyone in order to receive this payment?

No.  Your personal data does not need to be shared with any other organisation in order for you to receive the payment.  

Q. I have left or retired from my role, but think I am still eligible. What should I do?

Social care providers were advised to contact former employees who would have been eligible to receive the payment. Your former employer should have made the application on your behalf if you are eligible. You should contact your former employer to check if they have done so if you have not heard from them.

If you are still working in the social care sector, your current employer should have included you in their application if you are eligible.

For other public sector workers and key workers

Q. Are other public sector workers who helped with the COVID-19 effort eligible for the payment?

This payment is for NHS and social care staff. While the UK Government announced a public sector pay freeze for 2021/2022, Scottish Ministers will publish their public sector pay policy for 2021/2022 in January and this will recognise the commitment and hard work of the public sector workforce across Scotland.

First published: 23 Dec 2020 Last updated: 30 Jun 2021 -