Keir Starmer has called on the Government to introduce a bold, comprehensive package to protect the incomes of British workers against the economic impact caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced additional financial support for businesses affected by the virus.
However, the Government has yet to provide any significant support for employees who have either lost or are at risk of losing their jobs, or who will see their incomes fall as a result of the current crisis.
Starmer is calling for every worker to have their incomes guaranteed through a new, comprehensive national Income Guarantee Scheme. The Scheme would sit alongside the existing measures announced by the Government to support the economy.
Under the proposals:
Any Government loan would be tied into an agreement with individual businesses about job protection. This week’s package of loans and grants for businesses was an essential first step, but by choosing not to put any conditions on this support, ministers provided very little protection for workers during this crisis.
A Danish-style wage subsidy initiative would be introduced that provides businesses facing coronavirus-related job losses with direct Government subsidies to help them cover wages.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) would be increased and made available to all. The SSP would be trebled from £94.25 a week to match the Real Living Wage. The lower earnings limit requirement would be scrapped and SSP would be extended to be available to everyone who needs it, including the self-employed.
Ministers should look to strengthen and expand the social security system at the earliest opportunity
Keir Starmer is calling on the Government to urgently consider these proposals and to work with trade unions to make sure the necessary measures are in place as soon as possible.
Commenting on the proposals, Keir Starmer said:
“Millions of people are already feeling the impact of the economic shock caused by the coronavirus. We have all heard tragic stories of people expecting to be laid off work or see their incomes fall.
“Days into this crisis ministers are still several steps behind where they need to be in order to reassure people facing a loss of income. Other countries across the world, such as Denmark, have shown what actions Government can take to protect people's incomes.
“The proposals I am setting out today would provide essential reassurance to people that their wages would be guaranteed during this crisis. Businesses would be incentivised to protect jobs, incomes would be protected and the social security system would be strengthened.
“These proposals are bold, but necessary. We are potentially days away from further social-distancing measures that will change British life. It is imperative that the Government acts to support workers to buy food, pay the bills and cover the cost of living.
“I urge ministers to give these proposals serious consideration and to work with businesses and trade unions to ensure families are given the help they need.”