U.K. workers who can not do their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will have up to 80% of their wages covered by the government, Britain’s finance minister said on Friday, in unprecedented measures to soften the economic effects of the illness.
- The government will support workers by paying up to 80% of their wages—and up £2,500 per month ($3,000)—to prevent companies who are struggling to pay salaries from having to lay people off.
- It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a $400 billion stimulus package on Tuesday to boost hard-hit small businesses.
- Also on Friday, Johnson has ordered all cafes, pubs, restaurants and bars across the U.K. to close and switch to takeout-only, with nightclubs, gyms and sports centres also affected.
- Business interruption loans will also be interest free for 12 months, and not six months as was previously declared.
Key background: After an initially restrained response compared with European neighbours, U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson has this week moved to introduce stricter social distancing measures, paired with billions of pounds in economic measures previously unseen. On Monday, he encouraged people to work from home where possible and avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, among other social areas. Johnson has also suggested that it would take 12 weeks for Britain to turn the tide on coronavirus. But Friday’s measures are a step up, and indicate the increasingly serious impact of the illness on the economy, as well as individual lives.