Gill Furniss MP Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
Finally, we have seen the Chancellor announce a replacement for the furlough scheme. It has been clear for weeks that with the tragic mishandling of the response which means restrictions will be in place for months to come, we needed further protection to save jobs. This is what Labour has called for, for weeks now. Whilst this wage top approach will work for many, there are clearly major issues with the new scheme which has been proposed.
I’ve been contacted by many constituents who are self-employed who are now facing receiving just 20% of their past earnings through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme after the Chancellor’s announcement. The level of concern at this from so many local small business people and freelancers is huge. Those who work in entertainment or events particularly are hit hard when there is very little new work at the moment. No one can or should have to survive on 20% of their previous wage.
Added to this, the new Job Support Scheme only supports jobs in industries where work is reduced, not those that cannot operate at all. For those industries such as sport, music or theatre where many venues must remain completely shut, this scheme will do nothing to stop thousands of jobs being completely lost.
I have fought for these constituents and many others in the last six months and will continue to do so. I’ve tabled a question to the Chancellor, asking him to bring forward support for those who cannot work in their industries due to the current health protection regulations. I will publish the response I receive.
The impact on employment from the pandemic goes beyond the thousands of tragic job losses and problems with furlough. It has been starkly revealed that our country has desperately poor employment protections. I have been contacted by parents isolating with symptoms of coronavirus, trying to feed their family on just £190 a week Statutory Sick Pay between them for all their bills. You cannot survive with a family on that amount of money. Even worse off was the delivery driver who, as he was technically self-employed, earned not one penny when he self-isolated.
These cases illustrate that it is absolutely crucial that all workers receive full pay when they cannot work for any reason. We have become a country where it seems acceptable for too many employers to offer only zero-hours contracts to their employees or pretend that they are not employees at all by badging them as ‘self-employed’. This is a ludicrous notion for those working for a single company with little flexibility.
We must realise that a fairer settlement for all workers is a key part of ensuring that our country is better prepared for future economic and social shocks such as the one we have seen this year. The heart of Labour’s platform going forward must be to secure for all workers, the hours they want with decent pay, protection from unfair dismissal, a pension, and support when they cannot work. This has to be the lynchpin of the high wage, high skill economy that Brightside and Hillsborough desperately needs.