Hi Philppa - one of our Helpline advisers, Elizabeth, was actually able to provide a very quick response to your question.
Thank you for your enquiry,
There is no straightforward answer I am afraid as each case is decided on its own facts but to be clear, once you get in touch with the Carer Allowance Unit by telephone on their free number 0800 731 0297 Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and discuss what is happening and notify them of the change of circumstances, you could ask about the following:
1) Ask to be treated as an irregular earner - this does have pros’s and con’s.
Official guidance makes clear that where earnings vary they should be averaged out over any recognisable cycle of earnings if there is one. If there is no recognisable pattern of earnings then the guidance suggests your earnings should be averaged over a five week period or any other period that the decision maker believes will give a more accurate figure. However, if you are paid weekly or calendar monthly, the Carer’s Allowance Unit is likely to look at your earnings over that period for which you will have your pay slip.
If your working hours are irregular you will need to ensure that you meet the net earnings threshold for Carer’s Allowance. If you are paid weekly this will be £128 net / week and if you are paid calendar monthly, this will be £554.66 net / month after some deductions: e.g. half the contributions towards a work or occupational pension and/or some care replacement costs for your mother while at work.
This means that if your earnings are over for the pay period you will not receive Carers Allowance for that period or until you provide a payslip / information about your earnings that shows that your earnings are under the limit again, this does keep your claim open but may interfere with you payments as you would then be paid in arrears. If you send anything to the Carer’s Allowance Unit, I would make sure you keep a copy of what you send.
2) Look to see if you have any allowable deductions from your earnings that could be taken into account.
This is how employed earnings are taken into account - which might be helpful in looking at if any deductions can be made and declared:
If you are employed, earnings taken into account will be any remuneration derived from employment, including:
- Bonus/commission (including tips);
- Holiday pay;
- Any payments made by an employer for expenses not wholly exclusively and necessarily incurred in carrying out a job, including travel expenses to and from work.
- Pay in Lieu of Notice [as it is earnings for a period that you would normally have worked – i.e. earnings related]
Payments that do not count as earnings include:
- Payments as part of a redundancy scheme;
-Occupational pension payments;
- Payments towards expenses that are wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the performance of employment, such as travelling expenses during the course of work;
The amount of earnings that are taken into account are your gross earnings less any deductions made for,
- income tax,
-class 1 national insurance contributions, and
- half of any contribution made towards a personal or occupational pension scheme.
- Some care replacement costs for the person you look after while you are at work
Care Replacement Costs
Some income which might otherwise be classed as earnings is specifically disregarded and does not affect your Carer’s Allowance entitlement. This includes the costs of looking after the person that you care for, or for a child under 16 for whom you or your partner get child benefit. This applies if you are getting Carer’s Allowance and, because of your work, you have to pay for someone (other than a close relative) to look after them. The care costs can be deducted when your earnings are calculated up to a maximum of 50% of the figure which would otherwise be your net earnings. A close relative means a parent, son, daughter, brother, sister or partner of you or the severely disabled person for whom you care.
3) Lastly, Caring Breaks - it may be possible to ask for a caring break
You can have a break up to 4 weeks in any 26 weeks caring and continue to be paid Carer’s Allowance during these breaks. The breaks can be for any reason. - This would allow you to be paid more than the earnings amount during your period of furlough.
You must have been providing 35 hours or more of care a week for at least 22 of the past 26 weeks. Up to 8 weeks of a stay in hospital (for either you or the cared for) can be included in the 22 weeks.
So if you can plan somewhat ahead, for a period during which you expect to be earning over the net earnings threshold you may be able to notify the Carer’s Allowance Unit in advance to try to prevent loss of benefit during that period. Note that the week for Carer’s Allowance starts on a Sunday if/when you notify them of a caring break. I understand that the in advance but might be tricky but again it is worth discussing this with them, as if your furlough period is for less than 4 weeks then nothing would change with your Carers Allowance claim and payments.
I hope this is helpful. If you have any additional questions once you have been in touch with the Carers Allowance unit, do not hesitate to ask.