The UK government has announced a huge boost for employees who may be facing loosing their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Today I can announce that, for the first time in our history, the government is going to step in and help to pay people’s wages.

We’re setting up a new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Any employer in the country – small or large, charitable or non-profit – will be eligible for the scheme.

Employers must contact HMRC and apply for a government grant which will cover 80% of a salary of any retained worker up to £2,500 per month.

The grant will be backdated to 1 March 2020.

I can assure you that HMRC are working night and day to get the scheme up and running and we expect the first grants to be paid within weeks – and we’re aiming to get it done before the end of April.

In addition, the standard rate of Universal Credit is to be increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months. The minimum income floor for Universal Credit is also suspended meaning every self-employed person can access UC at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.

Housing benefit and Universal Credit amounts will increase by way of the Local Housing Allowance which will cover at least 30% of market rents.

I’m announcing today nearly £1bn of support for renters, by increasing the generosity of housing benefit and Universal Credit, so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents in your area.

In further announcements:

  • next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan will be interest free for 12 months not the originally planned 6 months.
  • next quarter of VAT payment deferred
  • Working Tax Credit basic element increased by £1,000 per year

This announcement follows previous announcements that business rates are to be abolished for 12 months and a 3 month mortgage holiday which will also apply to buy-to-let mortgages.

These announcements came at the same time as effectively the UK went on lockdown with the closing of all bars, restaurants and entertainment venues as well as advising on much stricter social distancing:

The government has also urged the public to take further steps to protect themselves and the wider population from the coronavirus, including: 

Everyone to stay at home unless they need to get essential supplies such as food and medicines.

All those able to work from home to do so, unless their work is essential. 

Only traveling if absolutely necessary - while public transport won’t stop, this should only be used for essential travel – for example by key workers to travel to and from work.

Unlike some other countries, it’s still for the individual to decide if their travel is essential and is not currently being forcibly enforced.