The Wales TUC has today called on the UK Government to prevent layoffs by offering increased support for jobs in lockdown areas where businesses are forced to close, alongside more help across the country to stop further redundancies.
Following the Welsh Government’s recent announcement of a £60m Local Lockdown Business Fund, the union body says Westminster must provide the Welsh Government with the funding needed to further bolster the financial assistance available in the event of more stringent restrictions in local areas which require businesses to close.
The Wales TUC proposes a local furlough approach:
· Businesses that are required to close should be able to put workers on a new local furlough scheme. This new scheme should be allowed to run on for the duration of additional restrictions in that area, and be withdrawn gradually as restrictions ease. The scheme should be run at a UK level, and should mirror the original job retention scheme, reimbursing employers for 80% of the wages of their workers.
· Businesses based in local lockdown areas that are affected by low demand but not required to close should be eligible for an enhanced local Job Support Scheme, giving financial assistance over and above the national scheme. There should be no requirement to work a minimum number of hours. And the government should cover 60% of wages for non-working time, with the employer covering 20%.
· The UK Government should also consider how to ensure self-employed workers and freelancers do not miss out on necessary support, for example, by increasing the payments rate of the self-employment income support scheme round 3 from 20% to 60% of taxable monthly profits for those who can demonstrate renewed reductions in demand as a result of additional local restrictions.
The Wales TUC says more support for jobs is needed to prevent unnecessary hardship and stop family firms failing after the crisis.
The union body has also repeated its call for the UK Government to make all working people eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP), and to raise it to the equivalent of the real Living Wage (£320 pw). This would avoid people required to self-isolate being plunged into poverty.
Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said:
“We all hoped the economy would be starting to reopen and recover this autumn. But it’s now clear that we need the Chancellor to adopt a fresh approach to protect jobs and livelihoods.
“We have welcomed the steps that Welsh Government has taken to support jobs in local lockdown areas. And it is vital that every pound being given to the private sector is linked not only to protecting jobs but also driving up employments standards in line with the Welsh Government’s Fair Work principles.
“But the reality is that it is only Westminster that has the resources to intervene at the necessary scale.
“In areas facing high infection rates and further business closures, the UK Government must act to preserve jobs and stop family firms going to the wall through a new local furlough scheme – building on the existing national job retention and job support schemes, with help for the self-employed too. That’s the right response to this renewed public health emergency, and that’s how we control the virus and avoid the devastation of mass unemployment.”