Benefits Expert: ‘I cannot go on like this’

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Q SOON after I started a new job in May I had to have some time off to go into hospital.

 I had told my employers and they seemed OK about it. By September I was well enough to go back to work but my employers told me they had no work for me.

 They said they would contact me if required but they have not been in touch since and we are now into October. I feel I am being discriminated against because I had health problems.

 I cannot go on like this without any money and with the stress it is causing me. Is there any help, advice or benefits I can get?

Worried worker.

A IF you have been ‘laid off’ because your employer does not have enough work, you can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

 You must agree to return to your present employer as soon as requested and be prepared to take casual work in the meantime.

 I would also advise you, however, to check up on your employment rights.

 Does your contract of employment allow you to be treated in this way? I believe, for instance, that a contract may specify an amount the employer is committed to pay during a period of ‘lay off’.

 If you phone the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Helpline on 08457 47 47 47 they will help you find out where you stand.

Q I AM a 57-year-old-woman. I have just received a letter from the Pensions Service which says I will not receive my State Pension until I reach 66 years of age. So instead of having to work another three years, as I had thought, I will have to do another nine!

 Is there an amendment going through Parliament for the most disadvantaged women?

J.I.

A SIXTY was the pension age for women up until April 2010 when it started to go up to bring it in line with men.

 Pension age for men is currently 65 but that is now going up too. This means that by October 2020 the pension age for both men and women will have risen to 66.

Q I AM on the sick, living on Employment and Support Allowance and other benefits and pensions but my wife has no income. As I reached 60 in July can I claim anything extra?

Mike Murton.

A AFRAID not! Pension Credit and higher rates of Housing/Council Benefit used to be payable at 60.

 But the qualifying age for these has risen along with the increase in women’s pension ages. You will not be eligible until autumn 2014.