UK government announces new job support scheme

The UK government has announced a new scheme to help support businesses affected by the latest coronavirus measures.

Yesterday, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak outlined details of a new coronavirus job support scheme which is intended to replace the existing furlough scheme, potentially providing support to land-based casino operators affected by the 10 pm curfew.

Prior to the announcement, land-based casino operators in Britain called for government support to help protect jobs that they say are at risk due to new coronavirus measures. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced several new measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus including a 10 pm daily curfew on all leisure and hospitality venues

Casinos and other venues that daily to comply may face financial penalties and risk being shut down.

New support scheme

The new job support scheme will come into effect on 1 November after the government’s furlough scheme ends. It will allow UK businesses to bring back furloughed staff on a part-time basis while the government covers part of their wages.

The government’s contribution will be capped at a maximum of £697.92 of each employee’s monthly salary. Sunak said the aim of the new support scheme was to help protect “viable” jobs and said that the original furlough scheme had so far cost the UK taxpayer roughly £39.3bn. 

The new scheme will be open to all small to medium-sized businesses but large companies but be able to prove their turnover has fallen during the coronavirus pandemic to claim support. Businesses that did not take advantage of the original furlough scheme will still be eligible for the new scheme.

Workers will need to work at least one-third of their usual hours in order to qualify for the scheme, while employers will be required to pay staff for all of the time they work. With the hours that staff do not work during the scheme, employers and the government will each pay a third of an employee’s wages for non-working hours.

Sunak said: “It is fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside furlough; we need to protect jobs that provide genuine security. Now is the time to move to the next stage of our strategy, to nurture recovery and protect jobs in the difficult winter months.”

Other measures announced 

Sunk said he would not announce an Autumn Budget this year. Instead, he announced several other measures to help support businesses through the winter months. These measures include extending the self-employment grants scheme for an additional six months and on similar terms to the main job support scheme.

The Chancellor also said that the deadline for all coronavirus loans would be extended until the end of the year. On top of this, the payment period for all coronavirus bounceback loans can be extended from six years to 10 and businesses that have one of these loans can apply to suspend repayments for up to six months.

It was also announced that government guarantees on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) will also be extended from six to 10 years. On top of this, a new “pay as you grow” option will be available to any business that has taken out a coronavirus loan. Sunk said that another coronavirus loan scheme will be unveiled in January to offer additional support.

The VAT reduction for businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors will also remain in place until March. This means that businesses will continue to pay 5% VAT instead of the usual 25%, however, Sunak did not state whether this would be extended for gambling businesses.

BGC “pleased” but measures don’t go far enough

The UK gambling body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) praised the government’s decision but warned that the measures may not go far enough.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “The Chancellor has gone some way towards providing support for casinos, who are an important part of the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries that will help power the country’s economic recovery.  We asked for his help and we’re pleased that he has listened.

“However, given the unique challenge that the curfew presents to an industry which does between 50 and 70 per cent of its trade after 10 pm, the package as it stands does not alleviate much of the sector’s concerns. Casinos have suffered considerable blows in recent days and weeks and will need all the support they can get to be able to play their part in the recovery of towns, cities and communities.

“Casinos are very proud of the high numbers of viable jobs that they sustain and now have a better chance of emerging on the other side of this curfew period, thanks to the Chancellor’s scheme .”

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