In order to avert the threat of future mass unemployment, the TUC has put forward proposals for a successor scheme to the government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS).
Called the Jobs Protection and Upskilling Scheme, it would build on the JRS as well as other best practice across Europe. Under the scheme, businesses would be provided with 70 per cent of wages and associated costs for workers who are not working as long as they can show that:
- they have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions
- they have brought back each worker for a minimum period of their normal working time (with exceptions for local lockdowns or for workers who are shielding or who cannot work because of caring responsibilities).
Workers would continue to receive 80 per cent of their wages for their non-working time – up to the same cap of £2,500, as in the JRS.
As workers on the minimum wage have faced real hardship while on furlough, the TUC makes clear that their wages should not fall below the legal minimum for their normal working hours. Likewise, self-employed people, including those who have missed out on previous support, should also receive help.
In order to promote the concept of decent work, the TUC argues that this targeted support should come with “strings attached”. As such, the scheme would require businesses accessing support to:
- set out Fair Pay Plans, including limiting the ratio between the pay of the CEO and the lowest paid worker and ensuring everyone is paid at least the real Living Wage
- establish a plan for decent jobs, including allowing trade unions to access their workplace where a collective agreement is not already in place
- ensure they do not use zero hours contracts
- pay Corporation Tax in the UK
- commit to not make redundancies and not pay dividends while using the scheme.
The proposals stem from the threat of mass future unemployment. For instance, the Bank of England has estimated that it could rise to 7.5 per cent by the end of the year, leaving 2.5 million people out of work, while the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has put the figure at 10 per cent.