Mixing messages regarding the Omicron virus variant are creating havoc ahead of the holiday season.

Ministers tried to assure households there was no need to panic. But many of Britain’s biggest firms have chosen to axe office parties, while other Christmas events have been cancelled and the travel sector has been hit by extra testing and quarantine rules.

Small businesses, self-employed and entrepreneurs are at increased risk for losing their vital income. This puts families in danger of going broke.

If your holiday destination is moved to the government’s ‘red list’, you should receive a full cash refund within seven days

If your holiday destination is moved to the government’s ‘red list’, you should receive a full cash refund within seven days

Money Mail provides all the information you need about your rights.

At work, worry

You must keep your Covid test negative for 10 days.

Unvaccinated persons must remain at home. You will be notified by NHS Test and Trace to the fact that they have been in close contact with you.

You must isolate your child for at least ten days if they have the Omicron virus.

Many employers will continue to pay their staff as normal in the event that employees get the flu or need self-isolation.

If not, you may be eligible for up to £96.35 in statutory sick pay, as long as you earn at least £120 a month.

You may also be able to claim a £500 one-off payment in England and Scotland or £750 in Wales if you are on a low income and unable to work from home.

Contact your local authority to file a claim. Make sure that you have copies of bank statements and evidence of employment.

No eligibility for travelers who travel while they are on their own until they get a negative result from the PCR after their return from overseas.

Under existing rules, you must isolate for ten days if you test positive for Covid. You must also stay at home if you are unvaccinated and alerted by NHS Test and Trace

If you are positive for Covid, you will need to isolate your body for at least ten days. Unvaccinated persons must remain home and be alerted via NHS Test and Trace.

Ask your employer if you want to work at home for staff from England and Wales in the lead-up to Christmas. 

So, companies may insist that you work just like normal after the official guidance on working from home has been ended.

Jemma Fairclough-Haynes, of Orchard Employment Law, says: ‘It’s worth having this discussion with your employer — but you could be subject to a disciplinary hearing if you do not attend without consent.’

Yesterday, Scotland reinstated work-from home guidance. This will give workers more control if they don’t want to go to the office.

You cannot receive statutory sick pay if you’re self-employed. And the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which paid grants of up to £7,500 over three months, closed last month.

However, if your income is low and you’re told to separate you could be eligible for the same lump sum as employees.

Struggling small and medium-sized businesses can apply for help from the Government’s Recovery Loan Scheme until June 30 next year.

All major High Street banks can offer the loans which are currently 80% government-backed.

The holiday blues

If your destination is moved to the Government’s ‘red list’ and your flight is cancelled, you should receive a full cash refund within seven days.

Perhaps you prefer to take out a credit line or change the date of your flight. But if your flight is still leaving as planned and you no longer want to travel, you are not guaranteed your money back — even if your destination has introduced strict quarantine rules. It is entirely up to each airline.

Infection risk: The official work from home guidance has ended, so companies can insist that you go into work as normal

Infection Risk: Since the official guidance for working from home has been ended, companies may insist that you work.

British Airways customers will be able to cancel bookings and receive vouchers that are valid up until September 30, 2023. If your fare changes, you might have to pay an additional fee.

Ryanair offers a free reschedule service to people who have booked with Ryanair between November 20-December 11 for all dates, up until January 14. 

Changes must be requested at the latest seven days prior to departure.

For accommodation, your right to a refund will depend on the company’s cancellation policy.

The Competition and Markets Authority says firms should refund you if they cannot provide the service paid for — but enforcing this is difficult for hotels abroad.

A credit card payment may allow you to make a claim for Section 75 under the Consumer Credit Act in case your flight is cancelled or you are unable reach your destination.

There are many options for travel coverage. Analysts Defaqto stated that 93% of travel insurance policies cover cancellations due to Covid. 

Businesses on the edge of collapse should help you cry for help 

Worry: Chris and Vicky Saynor have lost £2,500 worth of  bookings since concerns about the Omicron variant emerged

Worry: Chris and Vicky Saynor have lost £2,500 worth of  bookings since concerns about the Omicron variant emerged

Vicky and Chris Saynor have lost £2,500 worth of accommodation bookings since concerns about the Omicron variant emerged.

They have three studios for self-catering in Cottered (Hertfordshire), which they usually book full during the holiday period.

Four guests have requested that they be rescheduled for the last fortnight because of concerns about safety. Three more guests have requested to be rescheduled.

Vicky, 45 and a mother of four, says: ‘It was far more black and white with previous lockdowns, but now you just don’t know where you are.

‘The Government needs to bring back grants or some other kind of support to help businesses get through this period.’

Claire Hattrick, a beauty therapist, has been cancelled more than 40 times in the last fortnight.

 The mother-of-two typically makes up to £4,000 in December, when clients rush to book treatments for the party season.

But she now believes she will be lucky to make £800. Claire, 53, says: ‘Ever since the new variant was announced, I’ve had people texting or calling to cancel.

‘Some are elderly or vulnerable clients. Others made a booking because they were going away or attending an office party and now they aren’t doing that any more.’

Claire, who runs her salon from home in Andover, Hampshire, says: ‘I do feel that if you’re losing business as a result of this, you should be able to get some kind of financial support.’

However, only 55% offer standard coverage for those who are ordered to isolate. Only 3 % will pay out in the event that you can’t travel due to official guidance changing or if a positive test is performed abroad. 

Quarantine costs will not be covered by any insurance if you are placed on the red-list.

It depends on which Airbnb provider you use to book. Bookings can be cancelled up to 24 hours prior to check-in.

If you booked a package holiday you have a right to a refund if the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advises against travel to your destination or if your holiday is ‘significantly changed’. 

It might also mean that you are asked about your arrival time or whether flights were moved.

If you don’t want to pay two separate tests or an isolate, however, you won’t be entitled for a reimbursement.

Festive fun

According to UK Hospitality, more restaurants and pubs are asking for deposits to reserve tables.

If you cancel your reservation, the money will be forfeited unless you are allowed to transfer it. Companies may be subject to penalties if they cancel office parties.

You should be able to get a refund if your tickets were purchased for an event such as a Christmas carol concert, or pantomime.

You can claim your money back in the event that the show has to be rearranged.

However, many people are still waiting to be refunded for events cancelled due to previous lockdowns. Resolver, a complaint site for ticket sellers received 2,632 complaints last year. This is 171 percent more than 2019.

If the virus prevents you from attending, there is no legal recourse.

But you may be allowed to sell your ticket via the organiser’s website or be offered a voucher.

Martyn James, of Resolver, recommends calling the firm’s helpline early in the week when they are not as busy.

Fears about food shops

For vulnerable shoppers, Tesco offers priority hours on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9am to 10am.

For those ordering online, the supermarket offers more than twice the amount of delivery slots available to them now.

Asda also extends its priority pass to those considered clinically very vulnerable up until March 2022. 

It allows customers to reserve a slot at the same week for delivery.

Sainsbury’s says it is offering ‘more slots than ever this year’, while Waitrose says shoppers who may need ‘extra support’ can book deliveries in advance.


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