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Government to protect wages of workers

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The Chancellor has announced a package of unprecedented measures to protect jobs and wages.

As part of the daily special conference updating the nation on coronavirus measures, Rishi Sunak announced a ‘coronavirus job retention scheme’ where any employer, large or small, charitable or non-profit will be eligible.

Under a grant scheme, businesses can apply to cover most of the wages for people who are furloughed and not working, in a bid to prevent job losses.

This will provide up to 80% of salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Employers can top-up salaries further, however.

Sunak said: “Workers in any part of the UK can retain their job, even if their employer can’t afford to pay. There is no limit on the amount of funding for this scheme.”

This scheme will be backdated to March 1 and will be open for an initial three month period, though it will be extended if necessary. The first grant will be paid “within weeks”.

He added: “We will protect as far as possible people’s jobs and incomes. For the first time in our history, the government will step in to help pay people’s wages.”

Other measures include:

  • Deferring next quarter of VAT payments so businesses will pay no VAT now until mid June. Businesses will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills. This represents £30bn of savings – 1.5% of UK GDP.
  • Suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus. This means the self-employed will be able to access in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees
  • For the self-employed, the government will defer payment through the tax system to January 2021.
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be interest-free for 12 months, up from the previous six-month time period given.
  • Increasing the Universal Credit Standard Allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element, for the next 12 months by £1,000 a year, benefiting over four million households.
  • For renters, £1bn of support by increasing Housing Benefit and Universal Credit so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents in local areas.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also collectively told all of the following to close their doors tonight and not open tomorrow: cafés, pubs, bars, restaurants (though they can provide take-out services), as well as nightclubs, theatres, leisure centres and gyms.

Johnson said: “I know it’s been tough and inconvenient, but the actions we’re all taking together helps take the strain off the NHS. Your actions, restraint and sacrifice are putting the country in a better position to save thousands of lives for people of all ages, for people who don’t deserve to die.”