Government to step in to pay wages for first time in UK history due to coronavirus pandemic

Date published: 20 March 2020

The government will pay 80% of wages and salaries – up to £2,500 – for employees not working, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced on Friday (20 March).

The coronavirus job retention scheme is the first of its kind in UK history.

Employers will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover wages of those who haven’t been laid off – but are currently not working due to the pandemic.

The scheme, open to any employer in the country, will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March and will be open before the end of April for at least 3 months.

The Chancellor says this means that people will keep their jobs, even if their bosses can’t afford to pay them.

The Universal Credit standard allowance will be increased for the next 12 months by £1,000 a year. The Working Tax Credit basic element is increasing by the same amount. These measures will benefit just over 4 million households.

It was also announced that self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.

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