Businesses and Employment Support Schemes
There are many people in East Renfrewshire and beyond who are uncertain of what the future means for them, in terms of their work. Measures announced by the Chancellor are important and welcome, but there are a growing number of financially vulnerable people in our economy who are beginning to recognise that they do not fall within the specific criteria that underpin these schemes. I have written to him, highlighting this, and focussing on the specific issues which need to be addressed.
The UK Government has consistently said it would do whatever it takes to tackle the crisis and that it would help individuals, businesses and the most vulnerable. This, however, is not the experience of many businesses and participants in the labour market, including the 40% of self-employed people and contract workers who do not have the financial assets to cover their expenses for the 3-month period, according to ONS statistics.
Just three weeks ago, in a motion to parliament, I highlighted the findings of research by the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW), chaired by Nobel Prize winner Sir Christopher Pissarides, which indicates that boosting the statutory floor of protection would support social and economic resilience. In light of the widespread gaps in cover that are emerging as the existing support schemes become better understood,
I have asked the Chancellor to consider how best to respond to the gaps appearing in the current support packages and the following recommendations from the IFOW designed to reduce inequalities, support all workers through transition, and build resilience to future economic shocks:
1. A guarantee of 80% weekly income at the rate of the minimum wage for a 6-month period available to all workers who are not caught by the JES or SEISS schemes. This would ensure consistency in the ambition and impact of the new schemes.
2. A permanent increase in statutory sick pay equating to 80% weekly income at the rate of the minimum wage for a minimum period of 2 weeks. This is in line with my previous call [link to EDM].
3. Costing up options for a Universal Basic Income Scheme, fully supported by the Treasury and DWP, to secure a permanent income floor to support worker transition between firms and sectors following the pandemic. This is in line with commitment given by the Prime Minister to Ian Blackford during PMQs on 18th March, that, “as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and for everybody else, no one, whatever their income, should be penalised for doing the right thing and we will make sure that that is the case”.
It is clear that recovery from the pandemic will best be achieved if as few people as possible are left feeling as though they have been cast aside as we go through this crisis and start to rebuild lives and the economy. The Chancellor needs to consider the circumstances currently affecting too many of my constituents and review the steps set out above as a matter of some urgency.