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Leaving work

Deciding to leave your job can be a difficult decision. You might need to spend more time with your family, your job or childcare may no longer be working out, or you might have to take some time out to look after your health or a loved one.

Once you’ve decided that you’re no longer able to work, there will be lots of changes to navigate. It’s natural to feel nervous about what will happen next, but by taking things step-by-step you can make your new situation work for your family. This guide will give you practical advice and information on what to prioritise, and how to make sure you’re receiving the help you’re entitled to.

You can also sign up to our email reminder service to receive further information on:

  • Your benefit entitlement
  • How to create a budget that works for your family
  • Who to contact about your change in circumstances.

Leaving a job

If you’re thinking about leaving your job, you should speak to your employer. You may be able to agree some time off or changes to your working hours or pattern to help you to stay in your job if you want to. Our factsheet on your rights in the workplace includes information about taking time off, your working hours, and dealing with problems at work. If you do have to leave, you will probably need to work a notice period, but this will vary depending on the terms of your employment contract. Details of your notice requirements will be in your contract of employment. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has useful information on how to terminate your employment and your work rights.

When you finish work, your employer will give you a P45 form. This gives details of your tax code, how much you’ve earned and how much tax you have paid. If you will be claiming jobseeker’s allowance, contributory employment and support allowance or universal credit, you may need to take your P45 to the Jobcentre Plus office. You may also receive a tax refund at the end of the financial year, or if you decide to move back into work, depending on how much tax you’ve paid. You can visit the HMRC website for more information about your P45 and tax.

Your finances

Making the decision to leave work may be influenced by your financial situation. You may be retiring, have savings or receive financial support from your child’s other parent. Or you may have no other financial support. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim some benefits for the first time. If you have been claiming some benefits whilst working, your entitlement will change when you leave work. The benefits you can claim may depend on the reason you have stopped working, and your individual circumstances.

You can use the Turn2us online benefit calculator to check what benefits and tax credits you’ll be entitled to. The calculation is made based on your individual circumstances, including if you have any other income or savings. If you have a complicated situation and need some help understanding what you’re entitled to, you can call our helpline on 0808 802 0925. An experienced adviser can help you work it out - it’s free from landlines and mobiles.

I’m leaving work to care for someone with a disability or illness

If you have stopped work because you need to care for someone, you can find lots of useful information and advice from Carers UK. If you are struggling to work on top of your caring responsibilities, Carers UK has information on getting support at work. You might want to consider if you would be able to continue to work if you received more support. If you do have to leave work, the Carer’s UK Looking After Someone guide includes information on benefit entitlements, plus practical help.

If you are caring for a disabled child the charity Contact a Family provides advice and support

I can no longer work because I’m unwell

If you no longer work because of an illness or disability, you may have been receiving statutory sick pay for a period of time. Your employer may have provided additional occupational sick pay on top of this. If you have reached the end of your entitlement you might need to claim a benefit instead. Our factsheet on benefits and tax credits for ill-health or disability lets you know what you will be entitled to.

I’m leaving work because my job, childcare, or hours aren’t working out

It’s worthwhile considering whether there’s a way you could stay in work if you could make some changes or take some time off. Our guide to your rights in the workplace includes information on taking time off work, your working hours, and dealing with problems at work. The charity Working Families helps working parents and carers, and their employers, find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work. They have loads of useful information including guides on parental leave and a guide to flexible working.

If your youngest child is under the age of five you may be able to claim income support, or universal credit (see below), depending on your income and if you have any savings. Our factsheet on income support explains how it works and what other benefits you could be entitled to.

If your youngest child is aged five or over you may be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit (see below). Our factsheet on claiming jobseeker’s allowance  explains how it works and what other benefits you could be entitled to. We also have information on jobseeker’s allowance and the special rules for single parents, which explains the circumstances when you should be treated differently to other jobseekers because of your caring responsibilities.

Universal Credit is a new benefit system being rolled out gradually across the UK between now and 2022. In some areas single parents will now claim universal credit instead of the benefits and tax credits listed above. You can check here to see if universal credit has reached your area yet and whether you would be affected.

For more information on universal credit and whether you’ll need to apply you can visit our universal credit webpages or call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline

The jobcentre will ask why you left your last job. As long as you have a good reason for this such as problems with childcare, then your application will be processed as usual. However you should be prepared to be asked about this and be able to show that you have looked into childcare options. You’ll also need to agree to actively look for work and be willing to take any suitable job that fits in with your childcare commitments. If you cannot provide a good reason for leaving work you may not be able to receive jobseeker’s allowance for the first thirteen weeks of your claim - our factsheet on sanctions has more information.

If you are receiving tax credits you’ll need to let the tax credits helpline know that you’ve left work as you’ll no longer qualify for working tax credit. You should still receive it for four weeks after you finish work. You should report the change within a month of leaving your job, but the sooner the better. You can continue to receive child tax credit when you are not working, or you may become entitled for the first time if you have not been getting any tax credits due to your earnings.

You could be entitled to free school lunches for your children. You can apply online to your local authority. You should already be eligible for a council tax discount if you’re the only adult in your home. You should contact your local authority to find out if you are entitled to a council tax reduction as your income has changed. You could also be eligible for housing benefit or universal credit (see above) to help pay your rent. If you were already entitled to a council tax reduction or housing benefit, you will need to let your local council know about your change of circumstances.

If you are not already receiving it, you may now be entitled to help with health costs including: free prescriptions, sight tests, vouchers for glasses and fares to hospital. You might qualify automatically because of your benefits or tax credits, or you could still qualify under the NHS low income scheme.

If you aren’t getting any child maintenance from your child’s other parent at the moment then this could make a big difference to your budget. Our interactive guide on arranging child maintenance can help you decide on the best arrangement for your family.

Getting support from others

You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents who have been through similar changes. Joining a group, like a Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents in the Gingerbread online forums can be helpful and supportive. Sign up for free Gingerbread membership today.

Looking for more information and useful tips on leaving work? Sign up for our email reminders below to receive two further emails with tailored advice for key milestones over the coming weeks.

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