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Fri 9th Oct 2020 - Government to subsidise two thirds of wages for workers affected by local lock-downs
Government to subsidise two thirds of wages for workers affected by local lock-downs, grants of up to £3,000 for businesses: The government will subsidise two thirds of the wages of workers in pubs, restaurants and other businesses that are forced to close to stop the spread of coronavirus. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced further support in a bid to protect jobs and provide a safety net for those businesses that may have to shut in the coming weeks and months. Workers will get 67% of their usual salary, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, if their employer is required to close premises due to coronavirus restrictions. Sunak announced the new scheme in advance of new local lock-down rules that are likely to be announced next week – and could force venues such as bars, restaurants and bowling alleys to shut in parts of the country. The existing furlough scheme introduced for the national lock-down, in which the government paid up to 80% of salaries, is being wound down and closes entirely on 31 October. But Sunak’s new scheme is designed to stop people becoming redundant if the local lock-down rules close down their workplace during winter, and ensure businesses can start up again when the restrictions end. Anyone whose employer is closed due to nationwide restrictions will also be eligible. Business will be expected to pay pensions and national insurance costs, which means there will may be a cost to employers, but it will be far less than the usual wage bill. Employers will also be free to top up the two-thirds payment, but they won’t have to – which means some workers may have to survive on far less than their usual income. The government is increasing the cash grants to businesses in England shut in local lock-downs to support with fixed costs. These grants will be linked to rateable values, with up to £3,000 per month available. Sunak said: “Throughout the crisis, the driving force of our economic policy has not changed. I have always said that we will do whatever is necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods as the situation evolves. The expansion of the Job Support Scheme will provide a safety net for businesses across the UK who are required to temporarily close their doors, giving them the right support at the right time.” Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to restrictions, and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days. The policy will begin on 1 November and will be available for six months, with a review in January. Payments to businesses will be made in arrears, via a HMRC claims service that will be available from early December. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Paying two thirds of wages for employees in lock-down is a welcome step and it is encouraging to see that the chancellor has introduced flexibility and a sector-specific approach. However, worryingly, it does nothing to address the issues faced by sector businesses operating well below capacity due to restrictions and consumers avoiding travel and struggling to keep their workforce employed. The curfew has been crippling for many hospitality businesses, with sales down about 30% even in areas of low infection. A more comprehensive support package for our businesses affected must follow swiftly if they are to survive the winter and avoid contributing to mass unemployment. If the government is serious about saving jobs, it needs to rethink the mandatory curfew in areas where cover rates are low. The need now is no less – possibly is even more – than the first lock-down, so a more comprehensive package of financial support is crucial. In addition to employment support, it must include grants for businesses to cover losses on stock and other overheads, which are piling up. We have already seen some high-profile failures and the situation is becoming increasingly unsustainable. The financial support on offer must go further if tragic levels of closures and redundancies are to be averted.”

G-A-Y owner proceeds with 10pm curfew legal challenge: Jeremy Joseph, owner of G-A-Y, is to push ahead with legal action to challenge the 10pm curfew after the government failed to respond to his request for evidence to introduce the measure. Earlier this week, Joseph instructed barristers from Kings Chambers to prepare for a judicial review. After giving an extension of time to reply to his lawyers, Joseph said the government had still not provided any evidence to support the 10pm curfew. Instead, it asked for a full 14 days to come back. Joseph said: “Our response was clear. If this evidence existed [health secretary] Matt Hancock would surely have it to hand. Why the ‘dither and delay’? The fact is the government has still not provided any justification for a law that is putting customers, businesses and jobs at risk with every passing day. We want G-A-Y venues to be safe, it’s how we operate. We agree with the other new covid-secure measures such as test and trace, six-person rule, table service and face coverings. These are all based on published scientific information but the curfew simply is not and does not work. What we are seeing, first-hand, is our customers going from being safe in our venues to unsafe on crowded streets and busy public transport. The effect of the curfew actually goes against the government’s own guidance. We get no staggering, massive cumulative impact, overcrowding of public places and transport hubs – all circumstances in which covid spreads. The curfew is not only thoughtless but threatens lives and likely leads to the increase of covid contamination. It undermines all the good work being done by our NHS and our hospitality industry. Since the government will not engage with us, G-A-Y has been left with no choice but to take immediate action to protect hospitality and public safety. Today, we have instructed our lawyers to issue judicial review proceedings against the government to challenge the arbitrary and nonsensical 10pm curfew. We need this government to work to protect hospitality while keeping customers safe.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill added: “Our sector has seen the systematic closure of businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs through curfews and restrictions enforced by government, which have no scientific basis. Given the gravity of the decisions being made by government on restrictions, we had hoped it may be able to respond and supply clear evidence for the decision to implement the 10pm curfew and further restrictions, but it has not been unable to do this. This leaves no option for Jeremy Joseph, G-A-Y and their legal team but to follow through with proceedings.”

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