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Coronavirus Kent: Everything you need to know about Rishi Sunak's wage pledge

Worried businesses and employees in Kent were given welcome relief yesterday by the government's pledge to pay wages.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the "unprecedented" measures shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson instructed pubs, cafes and restaurants to close amid the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo:Matt Dunham/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo:Matt Dunham/PA Wire

The shutdown measures also affected nightclubs, theatres, gyms, and leisure centres, and left many businesses facing the prospect of cutting staff, or crashing out of business permanently.

Many such firms in Kent had already been affected badly by the outbreak, with theatres across Kent closing and Shepard Neame going to extreme lengths to save pubs from crisis.

However, the government has now pledged a package of deals that will see business deferring their VAT payments and - most importantly to many who are not working and are worried about their jobs- a promise to pay 80% of wages for companies to keep workers on.

The move, which had been supported by Kent MP Greg Clark, will see employees at affected firms paid the sum up to a maximum of £2,500 per month in what has been described as a "welcome intervention".

Here, KentOnline answers some questions you may have on what the Chancellor's new package will mean for you.

How will the wage pledge affect you?
How will the wage pledge affect you?

I'm still employed, but unable to work. How will this affect me?

Many people, particularly in the hospitality industry, are finding themselves unable to work, but are still employed by their business.

If you fall under this category, then the government's pledge will most likely apply directly to you.

Employers will be able to access grants that will enable them to keep paying you, with 80% of your monthly wage paid by the treasury.

This measure has been put in place for a minimum of three months, and could be extended when necessary.

When can I get paid?

The government plans to have the grants accessible to all employers by the end of April.

The way this will affect wages will differ with each business; some may be able to access the grants earlier but the exact way this will work is not yet clear.

The good news is that this grant will backdate to March, so you won't only get paid from the beginning of May.

It is likely that employers will keep you updated on the ongoing situation.

Does it matter how much I earn?

The grant will pay people up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

This is above the median (average) wage in the UK, which is around £2,340 according to the office of national statistics.

£2,500 is 80% of around £3,125; so if you earn anything up to or less than this normally, then 80% of your wages will be paid by the government during this crisis.

However, if you earn anything more, you will have to settle for the maximum figure until such time as work can return.

Will I get paid the rest of my wages?

The government has made this pledge to support businesses that would otherwise have to lay off part or all of their workforce .

As such, whether or not your employers pay the remaining 20% of your wages is most likely down to their ability to do so, and workers in some companies have already had to take extensive pay cuts to stay employed.

As revenue will most likely be greatly reduced or eliminated completely during this time for companies that have had to close their doors, it is unlikely that many employers will be able to provide anything additional to the government's pledge.

However, this could differ with each employer, and may well change as time goes on.

What about sick pay?

For those who are still employed, the first port of call will be with employers, as many will have parts in their contract relating to sick pay.

Otherwise, you can apply for statutory sick pay (SSP), which has a minimum of £94.25 a week.

As of March 13, anyone self-isolating from Covid-19 qualifies for SSP from the first day of being unwell.

If you are ill for any other reason, you need to have been ill for at least four days, and earn an average of at least £118 per week.

What if I am working from home and have to look after my children?

Some people will be able to work from home and will have been doing so for most of this week, and if this is the case then your wages should be paid as normal by your employer.

However, many parents are facing working from home and caring for children at the same time from Monday.

While your employer must give you time off for childcare, they are not obliged to pay you unless your contract states otherwise; however, many companies are trying to allow parents to work flexibly to ease the pressure on families.

It may be worth discussing with your employer to see what strategies they have in place for this situation.

I am self-employed. What help am I being given?

According to Kent County Council, 11.6% of workers in the county aged 16-64 are self-employed.

Unfortunately, the recent wages pledge does not apply to the self-employed, who are (broadly speaking) also unable to claim SSP.

While the wages pledge unfortunately does not apply to you, the government has introduced other measures to help.

Self-employed people are being given easier access to benefits in the event that they see a drop in income.

This includes removing the income floor for universal credit, and moving the application process to online and over the phone.

This will also mean that any self-employed person who is ill during this period will also be able to claim for the time they were off work.

It remains to be seen whether or not any additional measures are put in place for self-employed people, but these are the measures in place currently.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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