We were informed on 8th April 2020 that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, would be providing a £330 (or 350 depending on your news source) billion pound bailout package for the British economy after it was forced into lockdown on 23rd March 2020 due to the COVID-19 virus.
Nearly every employer has been hindered, save for those bravely staffing the NHS, and of course, if you work for a supermarket or Amazon, who has recently informed the media that it is seeking to employ a further 75,000 workers. I have also read about the devastation that lockdown has brought to previously profitable businesses who have not just been hindered, but forced to close their doors for good. You may also have seen stories that have focused on specific individuals like the single female city worker, who having never had money troubles before, now found herself forced to rely on her local food bank to feed herself.
There was no preparation for lockdown, yes we could see something coming, but this truly was unprecedented. The statistics from a respected piece of work called The Great British Gamble informed us that one in three Brits had less than £1,500 in their bank account; that 15 per cent had absolutely nothing; and that nearly 2/3rds of the women polled did not regularly save. These statistics came as no real surprise when you understand that not only is there a gender pay gap, with British women receiving just 76.5 per cent of their male counterpart’s wage, but that there is a gender savings gap too with 1 in every 4 men having over £20,000 in savings whilst less than one in five women do.
Add to this lockdown and we have the perfect financial storm for women. So what next?
The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was a policy created to assist employees who found themselves with the looming reality of either being laid off or even being made redundant. An employee who was on the payroll scheme of their employer as at 28th February (so applying retrospectively) could be furloughed and therefore eligible to receive an income up to 80% of their monthly income, or in any event no more than £2,500 per month.
It seems that those eligible to be furloughed are full and part time employees, agency workers who were contracted to work solely for one employer and those on zero hour contracts. Sadly so many of us still fall outside the scope of this assistance and/or there is still so much confusion around eligibility. For example, those on maternity leave, those caring for children, those recently made redundant and those currently on sabbatical or unpaid leave.
I suspect you want to know how to apply, but the scheme is not actually open until the end of April, no specific date has been set yet, so by my calculation some will have gone at least one month without receiving a wage, or perhaps a reduced wage whilst still having to pay your mortgage/rent, for food and other necessary bills. You may be eligible to claim Universal Credit, or Job Seekers Allowance (if you no longer have a job as opposed to being furloughed), but it’s being reported that over a million people have applied for benefits and sadly the reality of claiming and then actually not being eligible or receiving very little, is all too well known.
With the Chancellor informing the nation in his daily briefing on 14th April that the economy could shrink by up to 35% and that up to 2 million people could lose their jobs, you must prepare for the long haul. So knowing that there are these massive hurdles ahead what can you do to make the next 3-6 months less painful?
If you were in employment pre lockdown then you are likely to be eligible for the furlough scheme. Make enquiries, be relentless in understanding your options, regardless of whether your employer is motivated to do it, and whilst waiting for your employer or the government to get its act together, find work! The guidance is silent about working whilst being furloughed, but we do know that if you have been furloughed by one employer you can continue to work for another.
Any job will do. I’ve read about BA pilots now driving for Tesco and other’s applying for fruit and vegetable picking jobs. This depression will not last forever and unlike the 1929 era, there are jobs available, one’s that would even suit those caring for children. Also, although the opportunity and/or eligibility for benefits sounds Herculean, still apply for the benefits that you may be eligible for, there is no shame in that, and your sole purpose is to ensure you not only survive the next few months, but thrive.
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