I’d like some advice on keeping my energy bills down please. I work in admin for a big corporation. We’ve been working from home since lockdown, and have been told we’ll not be back in the office before March at the earliest. Now the weather has turned, I’m freezing sitting here all day in front of my computer! I’m worried if I turn the heating up my bills are going to go through the roof!
I’m sorry this is causing you to worry. However, fortunately, there’s lots you can do to keep bills down.
Firstly, see if you can get a better deal by changing your energy tariff or supplier. However, as well as comparing prices, it’s a good idea to check the customer service record of a company before switching. Citizens Advice has a price comparison tool on our website, and our star rating assesses the customer service records of the 40 biggest companies. Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden (CACE) has an Energy Adviser who can help with this, with challenging energy bills if you think you’ve been overcharged and many other energy matters – call 03300 563037 for an appointment or visit https://www.cac-e.org.uk/contact-us/email-advice/ and complete an email enquiry form.
Other help CACE can help you with:
- challenging your fuel bill, e.g. as you think the meter is faulty or a previous users bill has been added to your account
- understanding your energy bills to make sure you’re not overpaying
- negotiating affordable repayments rates, e.g. if you have accrued arrears and cannot to repay them
- applying to Trust Funds to ask for help repaying arrears
- registering you on the appropriate Priority Services Register if you are classed as a vulnerable person
- understanding your heating system to make sure you’re using it correctly
There are also little, everyday things that can help, such as making sure televisions and other devices are switched off and not left on standby; washing clothes on a lower temperature; and only filling the kettle with the water you need. You should also make sure you’re using your heating system correctly; using the timer and turning the thermostat down 1 degree can help save money on your heating bills. Our Energy Adviser can give you tailored advice on how you could do this.
You’re right in another way about bills going through the roof – and the walls. One way of cutting costs in the long term is to invest in good insulation – or ask your landlord to do so.
If your pay is close to the national minimum wage, the extra costs of working from home could be counted as a pay cut and bring you below the legal level. Talk to your manager or HR department, or your union rep if that feels more comfortable.
Your employer should also pay for any costs connected to your health and safety – such as a suitable chair for work at a computer. It’s also worth taking a look at your employer’s expenses policy, you may be able to claim for a number of other things, such as printer ink or telephone line rental.
Finally, you may be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs if you have to work at home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week. This includes if you have to work from home because of coronavirus (COVID-19).
You cannot claim tax relief if you choose to work from home.
Additional costs include things like heating, metered water bills, home contents insurance, business calls or a new broadband connection. They do not include costs that would stay the same whether you were working at home or in an office, such as mortgage interest, rent or council tax.
You may also be able to claim tax relief on equipment you’ve bought, such as a laptop, chair or mobile phone.
How much you can claim
You can either claim tax relief on:
- £6 a week from 6 April 2020 (for previous tax years the rate is £4 a week) – you will not need to keep evidence of your extra costs
- the exact amount of extra costs you’ve incurred above the weekly amount – you’ll need evidence such as receipts, bills or contracts
You’ll get tax relief based on the rate at which you pay tax. For example, if you pay the 20% basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week you would get £1.20 per week in tax relief (20% of £6).
Visit https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home for more details.