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03/03/2021 Holderness Gazette Article

For the first time in a long while there seems to be a genuine belief that we are coming towards the end of this difficult time. The vaccination program is going at a fantastic pace and it is this, more than anything, that is providing the hope for so many that the light at the end of the tunnel is real. It has been, and continues to be, astounding the rate the vaccine is being rolled out, and a huge thank you should be given to the NHS, its staff and all those volunteers that are making it happen. They are all putting a smile on so many faces. Well done and thank you.

To add to this, the Prime Minister has laid out his steps to lifting the lockdown and the route to freedom. To some it appears too slow and to others too quick, so I guess its about right. We still need to be cautious and keep our social distancing, but I must admit, it is much easier to be patient when you know the end of this nightmare is near. Roll on June.

I am writing this before the Chancellor has presented his 2021 budget but as ever, information seems to be drip fed out prior to these events. We may also find out how we are going to pay for the support the Government has provided during this pandemic. Will it be tax rises as some believe, or will it be growth in the economy that the Chancellor is keen to support and encourage? We shall see.

So, what we believe to be so far is:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or furlough scheme, applies across the UK. It covers up to 80% of an employee’s salary for the hours they can’t work, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The extension of the scheme means that as Covid restrictions start to lift, employers will have to help cover part of the cost of their furloughed workers’ salaries. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked until the scheme ends in September.

Employers will be required to contribute to workers’ salaries from July.

From then, employers will be expected to contribute 10% of an employee’s salary, increasing to 20% in August and September, as the economy reopens. Employers already have to pay pension and National Insurance contributions on these wages.

Self Employed Income Support Scheme

It is anticipated that more support will also be announced for self-employed workers, with more than 600,000 people, many of them newly self-employed last year, now eligible for cash grants.

A fourth grant from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be available to claim from April, worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits up to £7,500, while the chancellor will set out details of a fifth grant.

The Treasury said that hundreds of thousands more people would be eligible for the grants this time, as tax return data for 2019-20 is now available.

High Street Shops – Restart Grants

It is indicated that the Chancellor is looking to unveil details of a £5bn grant scheme to help struggling High Street shops and hospitality firms in England reopen after lockdown has been lifted.

The Chancellor said the grants could be worth as much as £18,000 per business. Nearly 700,000 shops, restaurants, hotels, hair salons, gyms, and other businesses in England, will be eligible for the so-called “restart grants”, to be distributed directly to firms by local authorities from April. It will replace the current monthly grant system.

Kickstart scheme

To help aid economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has announced changes to the scheme designed to help and encourage young people into work.

What is the Kickstart scheme?

The Kickstart scheme was announced by the Chancellor in July 2020 as part of his “Plan for Jobs”. It is aimed at creating new high-quality jobs to help 16–24-year-old unemployed people on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Employers who take on scheme participants will receive funding from the Government to cover some employment costs, including wages.

The scheme is being run across several industries in England, Scotland and Wales and is open to all employers who meet the minimum requirements for offering the scheme. The scheme has been extended to include smaller employers. The Chancellor has urged every employer, big or small, to hire as many “Kickstarters” as possible.

How does the Kickstart scheme work?

Under the scheme, employers can offer six-month placements to participants in “new” jobs. The job placements must be roles that are in addition to the current workforce. In addition, employers are expected to develop the skills and experience of the participant in areas such as looking for long-term work, including advice on their career and setting goals; support with CVs and interview preparations, and basic skills such as attendance, timekeeping, and teamwork. Applications for funding need to include details on how this support will be provided.

The scheme covers 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours’ work per week, as well as employer’s National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. Employers can top up the payment or offer a higher number of working hours, but the excess will not be covered by the funding.

The Government also pays employers £1500 towards setting up support and training for those on the Kickstart placement. This payment can also be used to pay for uniforms and other necessary start-up costs. Employers who take part in this scheme can hire a second Kickstart participant into the same placement after the first participant has completed their six months.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Kickstart scheme?

To be eligible for the scheme, employers must:

  • be an existing company/organisation with a track record of fiscal competence.
  • offer a vacancy or vacancies which are new and not a replacement of an existing job or cause current staff to have a reduced workload.
  • be prepared to offer at least 25 hours a week to participants who are paid at the appropriate NMW for their age group, for at least six months.
  • demonstrate at application stage what employability support they will provide to participants to give them the transferable skills needed to continue into gainful employment, training, or education.
  • demonstrate that the jobs they are offering are quality placements — both “meaningful” and “suitable” — that will benefit the participant in future.
  • show how they plan to monitor the progress of participants to the satisfaction of the compliance and quality requirements for the scheme — covering participants’ safety, employer liability insurance, risk assessments for the vulnerable, and Disclosure and Barring Services for 16–17-year-olds.
  • show how publicity activities, such as branding, will comply with the DWP publicity requirements.

With light at the end of the tunnel I would hope we can say with confidence that we have almost got through this together. Take care and stay safe.

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