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Working remotely

10 essential tips how to work from home effectively

Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak, we might have imagined working from home as the opportunity of sleeping in late, lounging around in our pyjamas, and long leisurely lunches. However, as many of us are now having to work from home, even though this offers a great amount of flexibility, it is still a professional job – and it needs to be treated as such.

As you have likely already discovered, working where you live is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you have other people in the space. So where practical and depending on the individual for many working at home, it is still important to have set hours, a dedicated workspace, avoid home-bound distractions, and actually dressing as if we’re going to work, to help keep our mindset sharp and focused.

Top tips on how to successfully work from home

1. Plan your day

This will help you minimise your distractions and maximise your true productive times. Without supervision, even the most conscientious of us can lose focus. Setting a plan not only provides structure to the day, but it also helps you stay motivated. Start the day as you would if you worked in an office. Get up at the time you would usually wake up. Get dressed, and try to avoid online distractions once you sit down to work. You’ll soon discover the best rhythm for your day. Then set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish on a daily basis. Make a plan and stick to it. Make sure you give yourself permission to have downtime. If you have to work extra hours, give yourself some extra free time later on to compensate.

2. Get organised

Maintaining balance is one of the most difficult aspects of working at home, because the work is always right there staring you in the face. To keep you on track (and not working too much or too little), organisation will be key. Get organised by creating schedules and to-do lists. At the start of each day, spend some time organising your to-do list. Be realistic by setting goals you know you can achieve, and never promise too much. Along with your to-do items, set yourself deadlines to get each one done. For example, if you’ve got a report to write, promise yourself you’ll finish it before lunch, before moving onto the next item.

3. Have a set workspace

If you can, designate a specific place for a home office. Store all work-related files, reference materials, supplies and computer or laptop there. Try not to make it near a bed or a TV. Avoid home distractions, and never underestimate the gravitational pull of the fridge and your comfy bed. Ideally, you should ensure that your office space emulates that of a true work environment.

4. Set office hours

Make sure to create a time slot for each of the day’s activities. This helps with communicating to others when your work-time and down-time is. If you have small children, you may need to schedule your work around their naps and periods of home schooling, so that you can have a good period of time to work uninterrupted.

5. Limit the number of times emails are checked

You might find yourself constantly checking email because you’re worried about being out of the loop. However, while it’s important to stay connected, spending too much time on email might distract you from more important tasks.

6. Turn off all social media accounts

In this social media–driven world, it’s likely that you spend a significant portion of your spare time browsing Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And because the home is therefore inherently capable of putting you in a social media mindset, it’s important to remove it as a distraction while working. Unless it’s essential for your work, stop checking Facebook, turn off Twitter notifications and avoid the temptation to browse your Instagram feed while working. Again, you can do this by promising yourself some time with them once the work is done.

7. Keeping connected and in touch

If you are now having to work remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, your employer may already have provided the technology – and the chances are you’re using Zoom, Google Chat, Microsoft Teams and so on. However, if this is not the case and you’re looking for tech to enable you to keep in contact with clients or customers, employees or suppliers, the main tools are Microsoft’s Skype, Google’s Duo and Apple’s FaceTime, the last of which only works on Apple devices. Most phone-based messaging apps, including Signal, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, also offer video chat, which can be easier to use.

8. Take micro-breaks

When making your schedule, you might want to consider working in smaller chunks of time, and allowing yourself time to get up from the computer to stretch. This will really help you both physically and mentally. When you take micro-breaks, you’ll likely to be more productive. Get some fresh air if you can. Open your windows to let in as much natural daylight and fresh air as possible.

9. Don’t get distracted

One significant difference between home working and the traditional work environment is the presence of family members. While they may not be there all the time, you’re bound to come into contact with them occasionally while working. Because of this, it’s vital that you set boundaries. Make sure that you are focused on the best and proper use of your time during your work hours. Have the radio or some music on in the background as you might do at work.

10. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Working at home can lend itself to a sedentary lifestyle, not to mention the close proximity of the kitchen and refrigerator, making weight gain a problem. Make sure to schedule time for exercise, keep healthy nutritional snacks nearby to maintain your concentration levels, and remember to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Mental health and well-being

Recognising times when we feel down or stressed

Mental health and well-being play a big part in how happy we are in our everyday lives, especially during this difficult time. It includes factors such as an individual’s ability to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, and build strong and positive relationships with others.

It also involves areas of life such as feelings of satisfaction, optimism, self-esteem, having some control over one’s life, having a purpose in life, and a sense of belonging and support. During this coronavirus outbreak, resulting in many of us staying at home or in self-isolation, it’s important to consider how to connect with others during these difficult times.

Maintain relationships

Essential for our mental well-being is maintaining relationships with people we trust. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via the telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.

Help those around you

Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Remember, it’s important to do this in line with guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep yourself and everyone safe. And try to be accepting of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours.

Connect with support groups

It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone, and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too. If you don’t feel able to do that, there are people you can speak to via NHS recommended helplines, or you could find support groups online to connect with.

Physical health impact

Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, and exercise inside where possible and outside once a day for up to one hour, by following the Government’s guidelines.

Keeping active at home

If you are able to go outside, consider walking or gardening (keeping the recommended two metres from others as outlined in the social distancing guidance). If you are staying at home, you can find free, easy ten-minute workouts from Public Health England or other exercise routines on YouTube and fitness apps. Sport England also has good tips for keeping active at home.

Sleep hygiene practices

Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.

Things you can control

Many people find the news about coronavirus (COVID-19) concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared. It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now, but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful.

Reduce media time

The continuous output of 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting to a couple of checks a day.

Positive new routines

Life is changing for us all for a while. Whether you are staying at home or social distancing, you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities or meaningful activities such as reading. You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week.

Boost your mood

When you are anxious, lonely or low, you may do things that you usually enjoy less often, or not at all. Focusing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.

Try something new

If you can’t do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with innovative online solutions like online quizzes and streamed live music concerts.

Control and purpose

Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose – think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. It could be watching a film, reading a book or learning something online. Play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you.

Relax and focus

Taking time to relax and focusing on the present can help with difficult emotions and worries about the future, and can also improve well-being. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety.

Get natural sunlight

If you can, once a day, get outside. Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical well-being. If you can’t get outside, you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can. Remember that social distancing guidelines enable you to go outside to exercise once a day as long as you keep two metres apart from others who are not members of your household group.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Investment diversification

Investing in an unpredictable world

Diversification is an important part of investing. In practical terms, diversification is holding investments which will react differently to the same market or economic event. Generally speaking, there are four broad asset classes: cash, fixed interest (bonds), property and shares (equities).

Since performance in any one asset class can be unpredictable depending on shifts in the market, investing across several asset classes can provide greater diversification potential. Therefore, if one asset class performs favourably, it can potentially offset another that is performing less favourably, providing more balance to your portfolio when market shifts occur.

Range of assets

One of the most effective ways to manage investment risk is to spread your money across a range of assets that, historically, have tended to perform differently in the same circumstances. This is called ‘diversification’ – reducing the risk of your portfolio by choosing a mix of investments.

In the most general sense, there are many adages: ‘Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’, ‘Buy low, sell high’, and, ‘Bears and bulls make money, but pigs get slaughtered’. While that sentiment certainly captures the essence of the issue, it provides little guidance on the practical implications of the role that diversification plays in a portfolio. And, ultimately, there is no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Your financial goals and what your attitude to risk is

Different investors are at different stages in their lives. Aside from dividing your investments across different asset classes, there are a number of other factors to take into account as well, in particular what life stage you’re at (such as early in your career or close to retirement), what your financial goals are, and what your attitude to risk is.

Under normal market conditions, diversification is an effective way to reduce risk. If you hold just one investment and it performs badly, you could lose all of your money. If you hold a diversified portfolio with a variety of different investments, it’s much less likely that all of your investments will perform badly at the same time. The profits you earn on the investments that perform well offset the losses on those that perform poorly.

Spreading your investments within asset classes

While it cannot guarantee against losses, diversifying your portfolio effectively – holding a blend of assets to help you navigate the volatility of markets – is vital to achieving your long-term financial goals whilst minimising risk. Although you can diversify within one asset class – for instance, by holding shares (or equities) in several companies that operate in different sectors – this will fail to insulate you from systemic risks, such as international stock market volatility.

As well as investing across asset classes, you can further diversify by spreading your investments within asset classes. For instance, corporate bonds and government bonds can offer very different propositions, with the former tending to offer higher possible returns but with a higher risk of defaults, or bond repayments not being met by the issuer.

There are four main types of investment, known as ‘asset classes’. Each asset class has different characteristics and advantages and disadvantages for investors.

Diversify cross assets valued in different currencies

Effective diversification is likely to allocate investments across different countries and regions in order to help insulate your portfolio from local market crises or downturns, as we’ve been seeing recently. Markets around the world tend to perform differently day to day, reflecting short-term sentiment and long-term trends.

There is, however, the added danger of currency risk when investing in different countries, as the value of international currencies relative to each other changes all the time. Diversifying across assets valued in different currencies, or investing in so-called ‘hedged’ assets that look to minimise the impact from currency swings, should reduce the weakness of any one currency, significantly decreasing the total value of your portfolio.

Creating a more effectively diversified portfolio

Achieving effective diversification across and within asset classes, regions and currencies can be difficult and typically beyond the means of individual investors. Individual funds often focus on one asset class, and sometimes even one region, and therefore typically only offer limited diversification on their own. By investing in several funds, which between them cover a breadth of underlying assets, investors can create a more effectively diversified portfolio.

Multi-asset funds hold a blend of different types of assets designed to offer immediate diversification with one single investment. Broadly speaking, their aim is to offer investors the prospect of less volatile returns by not relying on the fortunes of just one asset class.

Take a long-term view (typically ten years or more)

Multi-asset funds are not all the same, however. Some aim for higher returns in exchange for assuming higher risk in their investments, while others are more defensive, and some focus on delivering an income rather than capital growth. Each fund will have its own objective and risk-return profile, and these will be reflected in the allocation of its investments – for instance, whether the fund is weighted more towards bonds or equities.

As we’ve seen recently, stock markets can be unpredictable. They move frequently – and sometimes sharply – in both directions. It is important to take a long-term view (typically ten years or more) and remember your reasons for investing in the first place.

Be prepared to view the occasional downturns simply as part of a long-term investment strategy, and stay focused on your goals. Historically, the longer you stay invested, the smaller the likelihood you will lose money and the greater the chance you will make money. Of course, it’s worth remembering that past performance is not a guide to what might happen in the future, and the value of your investments can go down as well as up.

Emotions overcome sound investment decisions

Give your money as much time as possible to grow – at least ten years is best. You’ll also benefit from ‘compounding’, which is when the interest or income on your original capital begins to earn and grow too. There will be times of market volatility. Market falls are a natural feature of stock market investing. During these times, it is possible that emotions overcome sound investment decisions – it is best to stay focused on your long-term goals.

Resist the temptation to change your portfolio in response to short-term market movement. ‘Timing’ the markets seldom works in practice and can make it too easy to miss out on any gains. The golden rule to investing is allowing your investments sufficient time to achieve their potential.

Why you’re invested in the first place

Warren Buffett, the American investor and philanthropist, puts it very succinctly: ‘Our favourite holding period is forever.’ Over the long term, investors do experience market falls which happen periodically.

Generally, the wrong thing to do when markets fall by a reasonable margin is to panic and sell out of the market – this just means you have taken the loss. It’s important to remember why you’re invested in the first place and make sure that rationale hasn’t changed. However, it is important to keep in mind that diversification does not guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss.

Shape your personal financial journey

In these extraordinary times, many aspects of our daily lives are being disrupted. We are here to help you shape your personal financial journey. We will understand your ambitions and support you to achieve them through our long-term thinking and expertise borne of experience. To find out more, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk.

INFORMATION IS BASED ON OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF TAXATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS. ANY LEVELS AND BASES OF, AND RELIEFS FROM, TAXATION ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN. YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED.

Moving closer to retirement

Delay taking your pension if you can

For those people moving closer to retirement who may have been impacted by the recent market volatility, an option to consider is deferring your private pension. If you’re in a defined contribution scheme, delaying when you claim means that you leave your pension pot invested for longer, so you could secure a bigger pension pot when you do eventually come to retire.

Deferring also means that you can continue to save as much as £40,000 in the current tax year into a pension and earn tax relief under current rules. There is also the opportunity to defer your State Pension for extra income.

Choosing to defer your State Pension means that once you do start claiming it, you’ll receive more than you otherwise would have. It can also help you manage your tax liability if you don’t want to be pushed into a higher income bracket.

The most important thing to do in the face of what is an unexpected and uncertain period for investors is not panic. We have seen extremely volatile stock markets recently, and it is impossible to say when markets will recover.

5 reasons to delay taking your pension

1. Your pension has longer to grow

2. You can maximise your investment potential before moving to safer assets

3. Your employer will keep topping up your pension

4. You’ll continue to receive tax relief on pension contributions until age 75

5. Delaying your State Pension can boost your payments

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Life insurance protection

Suddenly we’re having to think about things we haven’t thought about before – including the unthinkable

The terrifying daily death tolls resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak may be causing many of us to think about our own mortality, particularly if we’re responsible for a family or business loans. In our Guide to Life Insurance Protection, we consider how suddenly we’re having to think about things we haven’t thought about before – including the unthinkable.

Understandably, we would rather not think of the time when we’re no longer around, but this crisis has highlighted the importance to protect the things that really matter – like our loved ones, home, lifestyle and business – in case the unexpected happens.

The outbreak of the coronavirus may mean you have concerns about your life insurance (which is sometimes called ‘life cover’ or ‘death cover’) and whether you’re covered. If you have life insurance to provide for those left behind or to cover business loans after your death, it’s important to keep paying the premiums, even if you’re tempted to put it on hold to cut costs. You could lose your cover and may struggle to find the same level of cover if you start another policy later on.

Projecting ourselves into the future to see what‘s around the next bend

For many of us, projecting ourselves into the future to see what‘s around the next bend is not an easy thing to do. However, without thinking, we insure our cars, homes and even our mobile phones – so it goes without saying that you should also be insured for your full replacement value to ensure that your loved ones and business are financially catered for in the event of your unexpected death. Making sure that you have the correct type and level of life insurance in place will help you to financially protect them.

Life insurance provides a safety net. Ultimately, it offers reassurance that your family and business would be protected financially should the worst happen. We never know what life has in store for us, as we’ve seen in recent weeks with the outbreak of COVID-19, so it’s important to get the right life insurance policy. A good place to start is asking yourself three questions: What do I need to protect? How much cover do I need? How long will I need the cover for?

Supporting your family and business financially when you’re no longer there for them – what questions you need to ask:

• Who are my financial dependents – my husband or wife, registered civil partner, children, brother, sister, or parents?
• What kind of financial support have I provided for my family?
• What kind financial support will my family need in the future if I die prematurely?
• What kind of costs will need to be covered, such as household bills, living expenses, mortgage payments, educational costs, debts or loans, or funeral costs?
• What amount of outstanding business loans do I have now?

The correct level of life insurance will make sure they’re taken care of financially

It may be the case that not everyone needs life insurance. However, if your spouse and children, partner, or other relatives or business depend on you to cover the mortgage, other living and lifestyle expenses, or business loans, then it will be something you should consider. Putting in place the correct level of life insurance will make sure they’re taken care of financially.

That’s why obtaining the right professional financial advice and knowing which products to choose – including the most suitable sum assured, premium, terms and payment provisions – is essential.

At different stages in your life, your need for protection will inevitably change

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the amount of cover – as well as how long it lasts for – will vary from person to person. Even if you consider that currently you have sufficient life insurance, you may probably need more later on if your circumstances change. If you don’t update your policy as key events happen throughout your life, you may risk being seriously under-insured.

As you reach different stages in your life, the need for protection will inevitably change. How much life insurance you need really depends on your circumstances – for example, whether you’ve had a mortgage, you’re single or have children, or you have business loans that you are liable to pay.

Don’t wait until the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is over to get insured

Everyone’s circumstances are different, and not everyone needs life insurance. But in these uncertain times, we appreciate you may want to speak to someone about your life insurance and other family and business protection needs. To find out more, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk.

Let’s get physical

How exercise can help during coronavirus

Across the country, fitness clubs and gyms have closed in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). For many people, this is much more than just missing a workout –fitness routines have been proven to reduce stress as well as being a social outlet, leaving many people no longer able to follow their usual exercise routines.

It’s well accepted that being sedentary is bad for our physical and mental health, so staying active during this difficult time is important. Being physically active can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, while also maintaining muscle mass and bone density.

Keeping active

Physical activity also helps to keep your immune system working effectively as it flushes bacteria from the lungs and airways, increases white blood cell circulation, and raises body temperature – all of which help the body fight infection.

As well as the physical health benefits, keeping active is a great way to ward off some of the psychological issues associated with being cooped up for an extended time. Being active helps lower stress hormones, such as cortisol, and promotes the release of feel-good hormones, such as endorphins.

Digital offerings

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, a variety of digital offerings have sprung up to ensure people can continue exercise while social distancing.

Wearable giant Fitbit announced in a blog post that it is supporting people during the pandemic by offering 90-day free trials of its Fitbit Premium and Fitbit Coach services. The premium service includes more than 150 workouts, while Fitbit Coach allows users to stream workout videos on phones or computers.

Meanwhile, online fitness membership GymCube has commented that it was seeing a surge in users.

Social media workouts

Although gyms have been forced to close their doors, many are offering their members online services instead. UK health club chains David Lloyd and PureGym are both providing members workouts via their mobile apps, while Nuffield Health is offering workouts via its YouTube channel and well-being app. Virgin Active also announced plans to provide workouts through its social media channels and website.

Children’s fitness

Children haven’t been left out of the fitness equation either. YouTube fitness trainer Joe Wicks is live streaming daily ‘PE with Joe’ lessons on his channel, The Body Coach, on weekdays. His first classes are getting more than 2.1 million views.

If you’re currently stuck at home, you may be feeling demoralised about what this will mean for your fitness. Whether you were training for a marathon or you enjoy working out at the gym, it can be tough to think of putting your usual routine on hold.

Adapting your workout

Even if you’re not much of a fitness fan, you may baulk at the prospect of staying indoors for a number of weeks while barely raising your step count. Exercise is vital for our mental and physical health, and is arguably more important than ever during periods of self-isolation.

The bad news is that, under new measures announced by the Government, leaving your house is only permitted for essential reasons. The good news is that doesn’t mean stopping activity altogether. You’re still able to go outside once per day for exercise. And it’s possible to use this time to get fitter and stronger than ever, albeit while adapting your workout so that it can be done from home.

Body-weight training

If you can’t leave the house, one of the most effective workouts is a mix of body-weight exercises and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Body-weight HIIT workouts are relatively short and don’t take up much space. Best of all, they don’t require any equipment.

Body-weight training uses your body as resistance to give you a challenging workout, which can improve your fitness levels and also build strength. Relying on only your body to work out also improves balance and flexibility, engaging and targeting all of the important muscle groups with just a few exercises.

Interval training can be a great way to maintain fitness, and you don’t need much space. Hill sprints, jump squats, burpees, planks, skipping or fast push-ups will have you sweating in no time. There are plenty of suitable workouts available online.

If you have underlying health problems, or currently have a very sedentary lifestyle and any risk factors for heart disease (such as high blood pressure), HIIT may not be safe for you, and you should consider alternatives that you can try.

Low-impact exercise

If you prefer something lower-impact and don’t want to disturb the neighbours, now’s the time to roll out a mat or towel and try some yoga or Pilates. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t access a plethora of yoga classes online, fitness routines and meditations. Walking meditations are ideal and can be done in your house, or outside by following social distancing guidelines. Put your earphones in, concentrate on your chosen guided meditation, and get your steps in whilst you do it.

MoreYoga, London’s largest independent yoga studio chain, has started offering free classes on its YouTube channel.

Staying motivated

Of course, even with the best of intentions, you may find your motivation flagging from time to time. You probably just want things to go back to normal, rather than trying to clear an area of space in your living room.

For this reason, it’s important to set goals, big and small, and to schedule your workouts. Routine is important here. You could plan your workouts for first thing in the morning, so you can get them out the way before the day’s distractions start.

You could also set an alarm for a 20-minute movement session three times a day – this will help break the day up and make limited resources go further. Go up and down the stairs, or use a box or ledge to perform step-ups.

Maintaining fitness

It can take about seven to 14 days for your aerobic fitness to start declining. What you lose initially is mostly the gains that you’ve made in the last several months of training. If you’ve been a lifelong runner, you will retain much of your aerobic fitness for several months.

You could track your progress on a fitness app. Some apps have the added advantage of a virtual community, who can hold you accountable and keep you on track. A fitness app will give you solid evidence to refer back to when you’re doubting your progress, and you won’t succumb to negative thoughts that could prevent you from exercising altogether.

Positive thinking

Finally, if ever there was a time to apply the power of positive thinking, during this COVID-19 crisis is it. It’s important not to be disheartened if you can’t continue with your current fitness regime, or a race or event that you’ve been training for has been cancelled. In this day and age, there are a plethora of options and resources to work out from home, so rather than taking a negative view of the situation when it comes to maintaining your fitness levels, see it as a motivating challenge and a chance to switch things up and progress.

Social distancing

The coronavirus outbreak is having an impact on everyone’s daily lives. It is important for both your physical and mental health to keep fit and healthy. The Government’s message is that you can exercise outside once a day for one hour, whilst following social distancing guidelines, but stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily. You should only go outside alone or with members of your own household and keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times.

If you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air. You need to also take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors.

If you’re new to exercise, start small – try maybe ten minutes of yoga or walking a day, then gradually build up. Even ten minutes of movement a day can help your body and mind feel better. Encourage your loved ones, who you’re no doubt spending a lot of time with right now, to take a moment to move their bodies too. And if you’re not feeling well, follow the advice of your health professional – including some rest.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Statutory Sick Pay

Payments made from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from work

If you think you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), you can receive £94.25 per week if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

If you are self-isolating because of COVID-19, from 13 March, you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people self-isolating in the same household and who have therefore been advised to do a household quarantine. If you were self-isolating before 13 March because someone in your household had symptoms, you cannot receive SSP.

Need to make a claim

The Government has legislated for SSP to be paid from day one, rather than day four, of your absence from work if you are absent due to sickness or need to self-isolate because of COVID-19. This applies retrospectively from 13 March. You should talk to your employer if you are eligible for SSP and need to make a claim.

SSP is paid by your employer in the same way as your normal wages (for example, weekly or monthly). If you have more than one job, you may receive SSP from each employer. Tax and National Insurance will be deducted. However, if you think you are not getting the right amount of SSP, talk to your employer.

Must be eligible for SSP

If your illness is not related to coronavirus (COVID-19), you must be eligible for SSP and have been off work sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days) to get SSP. You cannot get less than the statutory amount. You can receive more if your company has a sick pay scheme (or ‘occupational scheme’), but you will need to check your employment contract. There are different sick pay rules for agricultural workers.

From Friday 20 March onwards, those who have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate can obtain an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases, this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ after seven days of sickness absence.

Ill or have a health condition or disability

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example, if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit (UC) or New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

If you are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work, you may be able to get New Style ESA. This is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit (UC).

The New Style ESA is a contributory benefit which normally means you may be able to receive it if you’ve paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the two full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.

Most income is not taken into account

Your (or your partner’s) savings will not affect how much New Style ESA you’re paid. If your partner works, it does not affect your claim. Most income is not taken into account (but a personal pension can affect the amount you may receive).

While you receive New Style ESA, you’ll earn Class 1 National Insurance credits, which can help towards your State Pension and other contributory benefits in the future.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Self-employed and not eligible for SSP

What other options do I have available to me?

If you are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – for example, if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit, and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change took effect on 13 March and will last for the duration of the outbreak, to ensure that self-employed Universal Credit claimants will receive support.

If you need to claim Universal Credit but have COVID-19 or are self-isolating, you will now be able to claim and to access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus appointment.

If you are eligible for New Style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day one of sickness, rather than day eight, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate.

If you think you may need financial support from your Local Authority in England, you may be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund. Most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

IR35

Reform deferred by a year

If you currently work as a contractor, are considering becoming a contractor, or own a business that hires contractors, IR35 is something that you should be familiar with.

Although the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, previously announced that IR35 reform in the private sector would be introduced as planned on 6 April 2020, the Government has pushed this back amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced on 17 March that reform will be deferred by a year – but made it clear it isn’t being cancelled. He said: ‘This is a deferral in response to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 to help businesses and individuals.’ It comes after a House of Lords finance bill sub-committee said that adding another burden on business would be ‘perverse’.

Private sector IR35 reform means that contractors and freelancers will no longer be responsible for working out their tax status. Instead, it’ll be down to the clients they work for (although smaller businesses are exempt from the change).

As businesses and the self-employed now face an uncertain few months, the deferral should at least give them more time to prepare for reform. Given the economic challenges that lie ahead of the UK, now certainly would not have been the right time to roll out needless tax changes that could endanger hundreds of thousands of contractors’ livelihoods.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Second self-assessment payment deferment

Strengthening the safety net for those who work for themselves

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said he will ‘strengthen the safety net for those who work for themselves’ with a package of measures to support the self-employed and freelancers, offering improved benefits and tax deferrals.

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