Budget 2020: Statutory sick pay will be paid to all those who choose to self-isolate
In the first budget of 2020, the newly-appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has pledged the NHS will get ‘whatever resources it needs’ during the coronavirus crisis, while he has also unveiled measures to boost the self-employed and small businesses who are left out of pocket.
The Chancellor made temporary tax breaks a major feature of his first budget, as he set out mechanisms for companies with less than 100 employees to delay tax payments or benefit from short-term cuts to relieve the pressure from spiralling costs and/or declining sales.
He opened by stating that: “We are doing everything we can to keep our people healthy and financially secure. This virus is the key challenge facing our country today, but it’s not the only challenge.”
“There is likely to be a temporary disruption to our economy. For a period, it’s going to be tough. The reason for this is that people are not spending as normal, primarily because they are following doctor’s orders to stay at home.
“Therefore, the right immediate policy response is to provide security and support for those who get sick or can’t work, through funding our public services and a strengthened safety net.
“On the supply site, the right response is to provide a bridge for businesses to ensure that what is a temporary impact on our productive capacity, does not become permanent. Our response will be temporary, timely and targeted.”
The Chancellor pledged a £5bn emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services and stated that statutory sick pay will be paid to all those who choose to self-isolate, even if they don’t have symptoms. This contributory employment Support Allowance means claimants will be able to claim sick pay on day one, not after a week. Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks. Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for those two weeks.
The Bank of England announced an emergency cut in interest rates to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. Policymakers reduced rates from 0.75% to 0.25%, taking borrowing costs back down to the lowest level in history. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says this will provide relief “at a difficult time”.
“The Bank of England’s role is to help UK businesses and households manage through an economic shock that could prove large and sharp but should be temporary,” he told a news conference.
“Activity is likely to weaken materially in the coming months. The reduction in bank rate will help bolster confidence at this difficult time.”
“There are millions of people working hard, who are self-employed or in the gig economy. They will need our help too. So to support them, during this period, we’ll make it quicker and easier to get benefits.”
Mr Sunak went on to announce that a coronavirus loan scheme is to be introduced to cover the cost of salaries and bills will offer loans of up to £1.2m to support small and medium sized businesses.
“The government will offer a generous guarantee on those loans, covering up to 80% of losses, with no fees, so that banks can lend with confidence,” he said.
“This will unlock up to £1bn of attractive working capital loans to support small businesses, with more as needed.”
British Safety Council welcomes government support for workers
“It is right that the Chancellor is focusing on workers affected by the Coronavirus crisis,” says British Safety Council Chief Executive Mike Robinson.
“The Chancellor is right to focus the government’s immediate efforts on addressing the coronavirus crisis. I welcome measures that mean people won’t be penalised for following advice to self-isolate. People who are unwell should never have to go to work and the government’s actions should ensure those who do fall ill are protected. I am sure many employers will also welcome the support from government to pay out sick pay.
“We are in unchartered territory when it comes the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on people and the economy. Here at the British Safety Council we are taking every step to protect our people and our customers and to put in place measures to ensure business continuity,” he added.
“While I welcome some of the specific measures announced today, this outbreak has raises important questions about the available support for workers who are unwell. Long before coronavirus, the British Safety Council called for changes to sick pay to support the lowest paid and we have been increasingly vocal about the negative impact of presenteeism and people working when they are ill. All of our focus now must be to tackle the current crisis and we will work with the government to minimise coronavirus’ worst effects – but once the crisis is over we will revisit the way we support unwell workers and stem the tide of presenteeism.”
Experts had already commented that the original £600m would not be enough, even for those blocks with cladding that conforms to the Government’s strict rules. The Chancellor noted this in his speech, and has pledged an extra £1 billion in a new building safety fund.
The Chancellor said: “Two and a half years on, we’re still grappling with the tragic legacy of Grenfell. Expert advice is clear that new public funding must concentrate on removing unsafe materials from high rise residential buildings, so today I am creating a new building safety fund worth £1 billion.”
He followed on to say that all experts, committees (including the select committee) and the opposition agree that this is necessary. The funding will go “beyond ACM to make sure that all unsafe cladding will be removed for all social and residential buildings above 18m high”.
The Housing Secretary will look to spearhead these efforts in the housing sector.
The Government also pledged increased investment to national infrastructure projects across the UK, including in 4G and broadband coverage, green transportation methods.
The government has also set aside £2.5bn of funding to address potholes in England. This will come in the form of a £500m bonus each year for the next five years.
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