Fri 23 October 2020:
The program will now cover employees who work as little as one-fifth of their previous hours — or one day a week — rather than one-third of their hours
UK Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is increasing subsidies for bars, pubs and restaurants hammered by strict new measures to slow the spread of Covid-19, amid criticism that the government has failed to protect small businesses and workers from the economic hardship caused by the pandemic.
The new funding, which could cost 13 billion pounds ($17 billion) over the next six months, is aimed at businesses that are struggling to attract customers because of restrictions on social interactions, even if the government doesn’t order them to close.
It comes just a month after Sunak unveiled his “job protection” plan, which business owners said was so inadequate that it gave them an incentive to lay off workers rather than keep them on the payroll.
The changes announced Thursday expand the government’s job support program, which replaces the earlier furlough program that ends Nov. 1.
The program will now cover employees who work as little as one-fifth of their previous hours — or one day a week — rather than one-third of their hours. Employers will be required to cover the cost of just 5% of unworked hours, compared with 33% in the original program. Together, that means the government will now pay up to 75% of an employee’s wage cost, close to the 80% covered by the furlough program.
In addition, the government is offering grants of up to 2,100 pounds ($2,700) a month for hospitality venues affected by the increased restrictions imposed on areas classified as “high risk,” or tier two. Additional support is already available for businesses in “very high risk areas,” or tier three.
“I’ve always said that we must be ready to adapt our financial support as the situation evolves, and that is what we are doing today,″ Sunak said. “These changes mean that our support will reach many more people and protect many more jobs.″
Britain is facing Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 44,000 confirmed deaths. While the pandemic eased during the summer months, infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths are now rising across the country.