If you had told me six months ago that a global pandemic would force us into lockdown, everyone would be working from home, people stopped hugging each other and that the government would be paying 80% of our wages I would have laughed at you and demanded a big gulp of whatever you were drinking. But, as the media likes to drive home every chance they get, these are unprecedented times that we are living in.
The uncertainty has been one of the most overarching aspects of the current crisis and, although everyone seems to be doing their best (especially HMRC with the CJRS) what if our best is simply not good enough?
Rishi Sunak announced last week that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is being extended to October and that soon employees’ wages would be shared between the government and the employers. And while this was welcome news, it now turns out that this particular concession won’t be effective until August, whereas the rest of Europe are already sharing furlough with their respective governments.
The CJRS has been a very noble attempt to support the economy and has ensured that millions of UK citizens aren’t without a wage and that businesses stay afloat. But the sheer length of the current crisis and the damage it is doing to millions of businesses just simply may not be sustainable. Employees are required to completely remove themselves from work thus ceasing all activity and production. And with part-time work not allowed until August, this is another nail in the coffin for many job prospects and people’s job security.
Already unemployment is set to increase up to 9% and that is with the CJRS in its current form. There are also mutterings that those covered by the furlough scheme will, from August, need to have 40% of their wages covered by the employers or else support will be discontinued. But in August, it is most likely that social distancing measures will still be in full effect plus current travel restrictions and guidelines. How can a restaurant or theatre support 40% of their staff wages if they can only operate at 25% capacity? Never mind the blow businesses will suffer as people simply might not be ready to go out and socialise. Being allowed to go for a pint and actually doing it are two different things altogether.
On top of this, there are lots of issues surrounding manufacturing jobs with limited productivity and disrupted supply chains. There is also concern for employees who are able to work but may not wish to do so for health reasons. These people and jobs are all part of a growing number that are being revealed as vulnerable to being made redundant.
I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom; rather, we need to be pragmatic and realise that, despite not being at crazy levels of unemployment like other countries, we are nowhere near done and the measures currently in place will not sustain the workforce that existed pre-coronavirus. A second wave of unemployment seems to be imminent despite the government’s “best” efforts. Something needs to be done soon to address these concerns and protect not just the economy, but the people of the UK.
Interested in finding out more about COVID-19 and Payroll? Visit BrightPay's COVID-19 Resources Hub for the latest updates on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, HMRC’s Claim Portal, COVID-19 Related SSP and much more.