‘Back to work day’ in England with the first steps to reviving the economy

Boris Johnson will be hoping hundreds of thousands of workers heed the Government’s call to return to work on day one of moves to ease the coronavirus lockdown.

On what is being called “back-to-work day”, he is urging employees who cannot work from home – in industries such as manufacturing and construction – to return, but avoid public transport if possible.

And as the Prime Minister holds his breath and puts his faith in “good, solid British common sense”, the government has announced further economic measures, including:

• A new plan to kick-start the housing market, which has been brought to a halt since March and left 450,000 buyers and renters stuck
• The self-employed can now start applying, ahead of schedule, for grants of up to £7,500, under the Treasury’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

It is also day one – in England, but not Scotland or Wales – of new freedoms allowing several outdoor activities for the first time in nearly two months, including:

• Unlimited outdoor exercise
• Meeting a relative or friend outdoors
• Sunbathing in the park or on a beach
• A day trip in the car
• A visit to a garden centre
• Sport such as golf or tennis with members of the same household

But as rules are relaxed, fines for flouting them are going up, from £60 to £100 – £50 if paid within 14 days – and doubling to £200 for second and subsequent offences, to a maximum of £3,200.

The government is also urging people to wear face coverings or masks in shops and on public transport where social distancing – staying two metres apart – is not always possible.

Moves to revive the property market have been announced by the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, who said they would enable people to move home safely in line with social distancing advice.

Estate agents’ offices can now open, viewings are permitted, show homes can open, removal companies and other essential parts of the sales and letting process are re-started with immediate effect.

“Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals,” said Mr Jenrick.

“Our step by step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

To help the self-employed, individuals or members of partnerships whose business has been hit by coronavirus are now able to apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits.

The Treasury claims millions are expected to benefit from the scheme with the payments of up to £7,500 expected to land in bank accounts by 25 May or within six working days of each claim.

“We’re working ahead of time to deliver support to the self-employed and from today, applications open for the millions of people eligible for the scheme,” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

“With payments arriving before the end of this month, self-employed across the UK will have money in their pockets to help them through these challenging times.”

In a bid to persuade employees to return to work, the government has launched a charm offensive, attempting to persuade workers that workplaces and public transport are “COVID-secure”.

But trade unions and Labour MPs have accused the PM of trying to bounce people back to work without allowing time to make factories and offices and trains, buses and London’s Tube safe.

And Mr Johnson will face tough questions from MPs in the Commons for the second time this week when he is confronted by the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Responding to criticism on safety and accusations of muddled messages on returning to work, the Business Secretary Alok Sharma encouraged employees who feel unsafe at work to complain.

“Employers have a duty to keep employees safe in the work place,'” he said at the latest Downing Street coronavirus news conference. “That is absolutely enshrined in law.

“If somebody feels their work place is not safe they have to take that up with their employer.

“If they don’t feel they are getting any traction they absolutely should get in touch with the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority.”

Source: Read Full Article