This year has been a torrid one for many businesses and employees. Just when it looked like things were getting better, a second wave of coronavirus hit, plunging us into yet more uncertainty.
This is no less true for our Jewish community, many of who live and work in London, which has moved into Tier 2 restrictions, as well as in Essex, also in Tier 2, and Manchester and Liverpool, which have been put into the most restrictive Tier 3 category.
In 2020 we have seen more people than ever turn to our charitable communal organisations, including Work Avenue (job/business support), the Paperweight Trust (citizens advice), JAMI (mental health), Ahada (bereavement) and many others.
Looking at the world at work, we can see how our community is hurting.
Simchas being postponed or severely restricted has caused severe problems for everyone from caters to entertainers to florists.
The travel and hospitality industries have been decimated, affecting not just those directly working in them but also the occupations – such as taxi drivers and cleaners – that depend on them.
But it’s so much more than that too. The 1,500 people from our community helped by Work Avenue in 2020 cover a whole range of occupations including actors, entrepreneurs, barbers, optometrists, airline pilots, therapists, property agents, personal trainers and dentists.
Last week’s announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak of changes to the Winter Economy Plan will therefore be welcomed by businesses and employees alike.
A detailed rundown of measures can be found on the Government’s website and it improves or continues lots of previously announced schemes.
The successor to furlough, called the Job Support Scheme (JSS), has been changed for the better.
When originally announced last month, employers had to cover 55% of overall wages with employees working a minimum of a third of their contracted hours.
The minimum number of hours employees have to work has now been lowered to a fifth and the government will now fund 62% of the wages for hours not worked. This more than doubles the maximum payment and, in the most generous case, the taxpayer will now go from funding 22% of wages to just under half.
The scheme will, as before, be open to all small and larger businesses that can show an impact on revenues. While aimed at those suffering in Tier 2, it is not explicitly tied to that status and is available across the UK.
For companies in Tier 3 that are forced to close, the JSS goes further and will see the Government pay two thirds of their workers’ wages.
The Chancellor announced specific help for hospitality and leisure businesses facing tougher restrictions – including cash grants for struggling firms of up to £2,100 per month.
This will be especially welcomed by those in our community who have lost the income usually generated by weddings, barmitzvahs and our communal dinners and gala events.
Grants for the self-employed have also doubled from 20% to 40% of previous earnings, meaning the maximum grant will go up from £1,875 to £3,750. These can be applied for by self-employed people in all tiers who’ve stopped trading or have seen a significant fall in trade. The Chancellor also promised “two further payments to come”.
With previous studies by the Office for National Statistics finding that Jewish people are more likely to self-employed than those of any of other faiths, this is a welcome move for our community – although we are still awaiting more detail of what’s being done for those set up as limited companies.
There is no doubt that coronavirus will continue to affect the economy, this winter and beyond, so it’s vital to have this support in place.
The Government has been fair and made changes where certain people were falling through the net.
Of course, as before, there are sadly those who will fall through the gaps in support and this will be an even harder time for them.
For those who are not able to benefit from Government support at this time, Work Avenue can help assess their situation and see how they can maximise their earning potential. So please get in touch.
As I said at the start, this is a torrid time. But with support, together we can get through it.