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What are your financial rights during the ‘pingdemic’?

Written by: Emma Lunn
Being ‘pinged’ by the NHS app could mean you can’t go to work, on holiday or to pre-planned events.

Figures show that more than 500,000 people in England and Wales were pinged by the app in the week to 7 July, up 46% on the previous week. Pinged people who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate for 10 days.

We’ve taken a look at your money rights if you’re pinged.

Will I get paid?

If you are pinged, have to self-isolate and you can’t work from home, you could miss out on pay.

Employers don’t have to pay you statutory sick pay of £96.35 a week if you’re self-isolating – they only have to pay if you actually catch the virus.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says the government’s failure to provide sick pay is a “gaping hole” in the UK’s defences against the pandemic.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “It beggars belief that the government is still refusing to provide decent sick pay. Ministers have the power to make self-isolation effective overnight – and cut transmission immediately. All they need to do is raise statutory sick pay to the level of the real Living Wage, and make sure everyone can get it.”

However, if you’re told to self-isolate you could ask to be furloughed and receive 80% of your salary up to £2,500 a month.

Another option is to apply for a £500 self-isolation payment from your local council – although these are discretionary and only available to low-income workers on certain benefits.

It’s worth pointing out that that you’re not legally obliged to self-isolate when pinged by the NHS app because the app is downloaded voluntarily. However, if you get a phone call from NHS Test and Trace telling you to self-isolate you could be fined £1,000 if you fail to do so.

Will I get a holiday refund?

Getting pinged just before you’re due to go on holiday is a nightmare scenario for many Brits. As well as potentially missing out on a long-awaited holiday, people self-isolating may struggle to get their money back.

Consumer champion Which? warns that most travellers are unlikely to get a refund for accommodation and flights they can’t take if they get pinged.

Tui, Jet2 and some other large operators will offer ‘free’ rebooking’ if you are told by test and trace to self-isolate. However, this only means that the admin fee for rebooking will be waived – you’ll still need to pay any price difference for the new dates, which can be significant.

Airline booking policies can be more restrictive as ‘free’ rebooking clauses tend to have significant restrictions. For example, under Ryanair’s ‘zero change fees’ policy you can only rebook without having to pay a change fee with seven days’ notice. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay between £35 and £95 to rebook – plus any additional cost of the new flights.

Can I get money back on train tickets?

If your travel plans change because you’ve been ‘pinged’ by the NHS app, you may be able to get a refund from the train company.

C2C, for example, will offer a refund for unused daily tickets and unused portions of weekly or longer season tickets. However, an admin fee applies.

Southeastern will let you exchange an ‘advance’ ticket for an eVoucher or request a change of journey on an advance ticket, with no admin fee.

Theatre, concerts and other events

If you’ve got tickets to the theatre, a gig or a sporting event, there’s no legal obligation for the organisation concerned to give you a refund if you can’t attend due to being pinged.

However, it’s always worth asking what an organisation’s refund policy is.

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