THE UK Government will cover 80% of wages of those left unable to work during the coronavirus pandemic, as announced by the UK Chancellor yesterday.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that pubs, bars, cafes and other leisure venues must shut from midnight yesterday, Rishi Sunak announced billions of pounds worth of support measures, including a job retention scheme, deferred VAT payments and a boost to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit

The move came after criticism that the £350 billion emergency support package revealed earlier this week concentrated on businesses, but did little to help out their staff.

Any employer in the country is eligible for the coronavirus job retention scheme issued via HMRC, which will pay 80% of the wages of staff kept on, up to £2500 a month.

He said: “I have a responsibility to make sure that we protect, as far as possible, people’s jobs and incomes.

“Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the Government is going to step in and help 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 will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll rather than being laid off.

“Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2500 a month – that’s just above the median income.”

The scheme is set to cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1, and will be open before the end of April.

Sunak has also said that the next quarter of VAT payments will be deferred until the end of June, in order to generate a cash injection for businesses.

He added: “To help businesses pay people and keep them in work I’m deferring the next quarter of VAT payments, that means no business will pay any VAT from now until the end of June. You’ll have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills. That’s a direct injection of over

£30 billion of cash to businesses equivalent to 1.5% of GDP.”

Nearly £7bn of extra support is being put into the welfare system in order to “strengthen the safety net and protect people’s incomes”.

The standard Universal Credit allowance and the Working Tax Credit basic allowance are also both being increased by £1000 a year.

“Together these measures will benefit over four million of our most vulnerable households,” Sunak said.

He went on: “I’m strengthening the safety net for self-employed people too, by suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.

“That means every self-employed person can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees.”

In order to support the self-

employed through the tax system, the next self-assessment payments are being deferred until next January.

The coronavirus business interruption loan scheme will now be interest-free for 12 months, double the time originally set. These loans will be available from Monday.

And having already introduced mortgage breaks for homeowners last week, the Chancellor announced £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.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “We have committed to doing whatever it takes to support businesses and households through these unprecedented times, and today shows just how far we are willing to go.

“This intervention is unheard of in peacetime, but it is crucial we stand behind our businesses and those that rely on them for work and income.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “We will do whatever it takes to protect the most vulnerable and get them through these unprecedented times, and the changes we are making to Universal Credit will help millions of people in most need.

“We are standing by those who rely on the welfare safety net.”