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UK Government urged to provide clearer advice to employers on coronavirus

The STUC said some businesses are taking ‘dubious decisions’ to remain open.

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A closed until further notice sign at the Buttercup Cafe in Duone (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A closed until further notice sign at the Buttercup Cafe in Duone (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A closed until further notice sign at the Buttercup Cafe in Duone (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A union has called on the UK Government to give clearer advice to businesses over leave of absence for workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The STUC said it has received dozens of reports of confusion and failure to communicate with staff and urged concerned employees to contact their union representatives.

The union added some businesses are taking “dubious decisions” to stay open despite the offer of support for furloughed workers – those who are kept on their employer’s payroll rather than being laid off.

It urged them to follow the advice of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said shops not providing essentials such as food or medicine should close during the Covid-19 crisis.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced a package of support to help employers survive the coronavirus shutdown and continue to pay their staff.

He said any employer in the country would be eligible for the coronavirus job retention scheme.

The STUC is now calling for urgent additional guidance from the UK Government on what this means.

STUC general secretary designate Rozanne Foyer said: “Over the weekend we issued the best guidance we could for workers likely to be furloughed.

“It wasn’t only workers but businesses themselves who were in touch to say that ours was the best advice available.

“We have contacted the Federation of Small Business today to offer to work with them on providing clarity.”

She added: “We have also been contacted by workers who are worried that their employer is not moving quickly enough to close down operations.

“In at least one case, incentives to stay on are being offered to workers as an alternative to furlough.

“We support employers recognising that their workers are going the extra mile, this should be the subject of negotiation and undertaken with full health and safety consultation.

“We don’t want this to act as an incentive for non-essential workers to present for work when they should be self-isolating or when their health or safety might be compromised, for example, when they don’t have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).”

The STUC said workers who are concerned about their employers not taking the correct actions or those who need advice on their rights should contact their health and safety representative or contact the STUC for advice on how to join a union.

Mr Sunak said Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month, which he said is just above the median income.

The scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1 and will be open before the end of April.

The STUC said there is “still a lot of confusion about who qualifies for the 80% wage support” and called for urgent clarity on the calculation for zero and short-term contract workers as well as agency workers.

The UK Government has been asked for comment.

PA