Citizens Advice Further fixes to coronavirus safety net needed as millions see hit to their incomes by Koto Amatsukami AdobeStock_329985936

Charity says around 6 million workers have seen their hours cut

Citizens Advice fears the government’s action to protect workers during the coronavirus pandemic could be undermined by confusion and patchy use of the job retention scheme by some employers.

The charity’s advisers are seeing cases of people at risk of slipping through the safety net, despite potentially being entitled to government support.

Citizens Advice research found around 6 million people in the UK (18% of the total workforce) have already seen their hours cut, been laid off or made redundant.

It adds that almost four out of ten people have lost household income because of this crisis. With 8% losing 80% of their household income or more.

Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

Gillian Guy chief executive Citizens Advice Image: Citizens Advice

“The government has unveiled a remarkable package of support to help people keep their heads above water during this crisis. It must now ensure employers are using this to protect their workers, as well as opening it up to cover even more people.

“We’re already starting to see heartbreaking cases where employees have been denied help from the scheme and have instead been made redundant.

“While it’s not clear how much of this is due to confusion, cash flow fears, or the need to downsize, we think the government needs a clear plan to protect people if the support is not filtering through.

“That is the only way to reduce the burden on the benefits system, and retain the link between an employer and their staff.”

Charity hopes the new government guidance on the jobs retention scheme will help clear confusion

Demand for the charity’s redundancy advice has doubled. Its web page “what to do if your employer has told you not to work” has been the most-read page this month, with more than 175,000 views.

Citizens Advice welcomes the additional government guidance on the jobs retention scheme which was issued on Saturday (11 April 2020).

It hopes the measures will help clear confusion about which employees can be furloughed and go further to protect many of the six million workers who have already seen a hit to their income.

If it doesn’t, Citizens Advice believes the government may need to consider further options to ensure people can get support through the scheme.

Such as putting more pressure on employers or giving employees in certain situations a right to be furloughed.

The charity is also calling on the government to look again at those who are not yet covered by the government’s Job Retention Scheme. This includes people who are at higher risk of coronavirus, such as those who are pregnant or have diabetes, but who are unable to work from home.

It is also concerned about those who have recently become self-employed but are not covered by the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Citizens Advice said that it gave one-to-one advice to 3,795 people with redundancy issues in March 2020, compared to 1,850 in March 2019.

People can find advice on a range of issues related to the Coronavirus outbreak at citizensadvice.org.uk/coronavirus. Consumer advice is also available from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.