The TUC economic response to coronavirus
Summary of recommendations:
Step one: Ensuring that business support also protects jobs
- Government must ensure that business supports including urgently introducing a wage subsidy scheme to support people in jobs, building on best practice across Europe.
- To ensure that government resources have the greatest economic and social impact and support the highest number of citizens, businesses and employers should set out Jobs and Fair Wages Plans as a condition of access to government support,with further details to be agreed by the Corona Virus Union and Business Taskforce.
- Where organisations with low margins are not able to absorb the current financial hit and repay their loans from future revenues, consideration should be given to debt cancellation in the medium term – otherwise there is a danger that support given today simply delays, rather than removes, the threat of job losses and business collapse.
- In the event of their employer’s insolvency, all working people should be able to recover all forms of remuneration owed to them by their employer in full – including unpaid wages, holiday pay, notice payments, maternity, paternity and parental leave pay and any outstanding sick pay. This requires reform to remove the current limits on the amounts that workers can recover from the Redundancy Payments Office.
Step two: Sick pay for all
- Government needs to act now to remove the lower earnings limit for qualification for sick pay, and ensure everyone can access it, no matter how much they earn.
- Government should urgently increase the weekly level of sick pay from £94.25 to the equivalent of a week’s pay at the Real Living Wage.
Step three: Support for parents
- Government should introduce guaranteed paid parental leave for one primary carer for the duration of the school and nursery closures, with government reimbursement for employers.
- This must be accompanied by protection from unfair treatment or dismissal for parents who take up this leave, no matter how long they’ve worked in their jobs.
Step four – provide more help to families, and a stimulus to the economy
- The response to Corona will go well beyond the NHS to encompass social care and wider local authority functions, who are likely to have to hire considerable additional staff. Government needs to start bringing together leaders in these sectors, including unions, to design a support package for them.
- Government urgently needs to design a wider package of support for households, in addition to wage subsidies and better sick pay. It should consult unions, employers and civil society on this, but measures could include:
- a fully-funded freeze on council tax payments, as well as council tax debt repayments
- the hardship fund for local authorities must be significantly increased, and the details clarified
- an immediate increase in social security payments
- ending the five-week wait for universal credit
- supporting rental costs as well as mortgages.
Step five: Bring together unions and employers to help the national effort
- The prime minister should pull together unions, business and government agencies to minimise the economic and health impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The aim of the taskforce will be to bring stakeholders together to co-ordinate support and ensure that measures are being effectively targeted, delivered and accessed by employers and workers in need.