Britain’s treasury chief on Thursday announced a new income support program to help workers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, responding to pressure from businesses and labor unions to step in with more direct support for people in precarious work situations.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a package of economic measures, including a program that subsidizes the wages of workers whose hours are cut due to the pandemic, during a speech to lawmakers.
The new economic plan would replace a furloughed worker program which is due to expire next month. Under that program, the government pays 80% of the wages of workers who are placed on leave.
“The primary goal of our economic policy remains unchanged – to support people’s jobs – but the way we achieve that must evolve,'' he said.
The program comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.K., blunting the country’s economic recovery from a nationwide lockdown imposed in March. To underscore that the plan has wide support, Sunak appeared outside his office holding a copy of the plan flanked by representatives of the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.
The government reported 6,178 new confirmed cases Wednesday, a 25% increase from the previous day and the U.K.'s highest daily total since May 1. To control the spike in COVID-19 infections, the British government on Tuesday introduced new restrictions, including a 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants that goes into effect Thursday.
“The government will directly support the wages of people in work, giving businesses who face depressed demand the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours rather than making them redundant,” he said.
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