Luke Pollard MP Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
All advice is based on information given by the Prime Minister and the government.
What does the Government’s new “Hands, Face, Space” slogan mean?
The government has changed its advice to “Hands, Face, Space” instead of “Stay Alert”. This advises that you should:
Wash your hands as much as possible, either with water and soap or an alcohol based hand sanitiser. This is one of the most effective ways to prevent spreading of the virus.
Wear a face covering when you can, especially indoors when it is hard to social distance properly, like in shops, restaurants, and on public transport.
Give other people as much space as you can, at least one meter with a mask on or two metres without.
Everyone has to comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, have the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
What is the ‘rule of six’?
Under these new guidelines, it is now illegal in England for groups of more than six people from separate households to meet up, indoors or outdoors. When meeting up with 5 other people you should still follow social distancing guidance.
There are many exceptions to this rule, which Luke is concerned will only lead to more confusion and less people obeying the rules. These exceptions include:
- People form your support bubble
- Schools and childcare
- Outside organised sport and exercise classes
- Arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents
- Weddings and funerals
- Indoor organised team sports for disabled people
For the full list, and more information, click here.
Should I go to work?
If you are an office worker or someone who can work from home, you should do so to help limit the spread of the virus.
However, unless your place of work has been ordered to stay closed by the Government, you should go to work if it is safe to do so. Luke is concerned that employees are being told to go back to work without new working guidelines being put in place to ensure workers are safe.
If you’ve been told to go into work, know that everyone has the right to work in safety under Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. You have a legal right to refuse to work if risks are serious and imminent. If you’re worried, talk to your union, ask your employer make it safe, or contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for help.
Can my employer “lay me off” or put me on a short time?
This is determined by your existing contract of employment. Check your contract to see if there is a provision in it allowing your employer to do this – and, if so, if it is with or without pay. Lay offs and short-time working can also be facilitated by collective agreement as an alternative / attempt to prevent permanent job loss through redundancy.
If your contract does not provide for this, and there is no collective agreement your employer needs to get your agreement to do this. Many employers will be looking to do this at the moment to protect jobs in the longer term. You will need to think through the immediate impact of loss of wages in the balance with the attempt to protect jobs longer term.
Luke is concerned that the current job retention schemes do not go far enough in terms of job recovery. Unfortunately, this means that up to a million people have already been made redundant, with many more likely.
What should you do if you are self-employed?
There are three grants available, out of four, for self-employed individuals. The first grant application has closed, but the second grant is open until 17th October. This will be one payment, up to 70% of three months average trading profits, up to £6,570. You need to have been adversely affected by coronavirus on or after 14 July 2020 to claim it.
The third grant will cover 20% of your profits, covering the period from 1 November 2020 until 31 January 2021. The Government have not yet released details of the fourth grant.
To apply, you must have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018/19. To be eligible, your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income must come from self-employment. You must also have traded in the tax year 2019/20 and intend to continue trading next year. HMRC will use an average of the last 3 years tax returns to calculate your total allowance. If you only have 1 year of trading history or less, Ministers have indicated that you should still submit whatever documents you have for your claim.
There are concerns about claims for people who have less than 1 year of trading history, employed people who have recently changed jobs, and others working in key industries who don’t have access to a reasonable level of Statutory Sick Pay. The Labour Party and Luke have raised these issues in the hope that the government will address them.
Further information can be found here.
What support is offered to my small business?
There are several options for small businesses seeking support:
Bounce Back Loan – This scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year. You can apply if your business was established before 1 March and has been adversely affected by coronavirus. For restrictions and further information click here.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) provides financial support to smaller businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million. The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months. You can apply if your business is based in the UK and has an annual turnover of less than £45 million. You will need to show that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus and would be viable if not for the pandemic. For restrictions and further information click here.
Coronavirus Future Fund – This scheme will issue convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. Applications close 30 November 2020. For more information click here.
For detailed guidance and answers from The Confederation of British Industry here
If you are a business who needs any help or advice please call the Business Support Helpline – telephone: 0300 456 3565 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
What should I do if I become unemployed or my income is too low?
If you are still out of work or on a low income, you might be eligible for Universal Credit, the standard monthly rate for which has been increased to £409.89. For more information and to check your eligibility click here.
There may be other benefits you are be entitled to, including housing benefit or pension credit. For more information, click here.
Is Plymouth Labour Community Action still working?
Yes. We are following Government guidance and Plymouth Labour Community Action is still operating currently although the situation is being monitored on a daily basis. You can request assistance via this form.
Where can I find extra information?
Plymouth City Council Covid-19 updates can be found here
NHS Covid-19 updates can be found here
Stay home and save lives instructions can be found here