Citizens Advice call for reviews of the furlough scheme as people fall through safety net

Coronavirus has massively impacted the economy in ways few could have predicted. Many people will have lost income and employment as businesses across the UK were forced to close. Fortunately, the government has stepped in to offer support where it can.

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One of the support packages included the Job Retention Scheme.

This scheme pushed forward new rules concerning furlough leave in which an employer could keep an employee on their payroll even if the company could no longer operate or find work for the employee to do.

If both parties agreed to it, the employer could pay 80 percent of the employees’ wages up to £2,500 a month while they’re placed on furlough.

Many have welcomed this new scheme but some have highlighted that there are still issues to be worked out.

Research from Citizens Advice detailed that there is a risk that many people in the UK could “slip through the safety net”.

They found that around six million people in the UK (18 percent of the total workforce) have already seen their hours cut, been laid off or made redundant.

Almost four out of 10 (38 percent) people have lost household income because of this crisis, with nearly one in 12 (8 percent) losing 80 percent of their household income or more.

With so many people in need the demand for support has been dramatic and as such, the state recently provided additional guidance on the scheme which Citizens Advice hope will protect the six million workers who have already seen a hit to their income.

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Citizens Advice is currently helping people understand the latest guidance but there still could be further problems.

The organisation fears that some may fall through the net due to confusion, or that a minority of employers may deliberately make employees redundant when they would be eligible for the scheme.

It called on the government to re-examine those who are not yet covered by the Job Retention Scheme.

They detail this should include people who are at a higher risk of the disease such as people who have diabetes or who are pregnant but cannot work from home.

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On top of this, the advisory service is worried about people who have recently become self-employed but are not covered by the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Dame Gillian Guy, the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice commented on the current state of affairs: “The government has unveiled a remarkable package of support to help people keep their heads above water during this crisis.

“It must now ensure employers are using this to protect their workers, as well as opening it up to cover even more people.

“We’re already starting to see heartbreaking cases where employees have been denied help from the scheme and have instead been made redundant.

“While it’s not clear how much of this is due to confusion, cash flow fears, or the need to downsize, we think the government needs a clear plan to protect people if the support is not filtering through. “That is the only way to reduce the burden on the benefits system, and retain the link between an employer and their staff.”

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