Saturday, 30 May 2020

Supporting jobs and incomes through Coronavirus

As we slowly start to emerge from this Coronavirus lockdown, I am delighted to see the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announce an extension to the massive economic support package made available by the government. 

This will provide flexibility, with gradual, tapered contributions to help firms restart cautiously and protect jobs, incomes, and the health of our nation. 

Self-Employed Income Support

I know lots of people have been waiting for news on the future of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme - so it is brilliant news that the scheme will be extended. 

Applications will open in August for a second final grant, paid out in a single monthly installment covering three months' worth of average monthly profits. To maintain fairness alongside the changes to the job retention scheme, the final grant will be 70%, up to a total of £6,570. 

If you are eligible and haven't done so already, you can continue to apply for the first taxable grant until 13th July. There are full details of the scheme and links to an eligibility calculator on my website, which you can see by clicking here. 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Chancellor also made key decisions on the future of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to support our economic recovery. The scheme has supported more than 8 million jobs from over a million businesses across the UK. Crucially - throughout the remainder of the scheme, individuals will continue to receive 80% of salary covering the time they are unable to work.

In July - a month earlier than planned - employers can start to use Flexible Furlough. This means you can bring employees back to work for any amount of time, and any shift pattern. Whilst at work, employees should be paid their normal wage, but employers can still claim grants for time spent furloughed. 

In the final three months of the scheme - employers will be asked to start making gradual tapered contributions. 
  • In August, the taxpayer contribution to people's wages will stay at 80%, with employers only being asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions. For the average claim, that accounts for just 5% of employment costs. 
  • In September, employers will be asked to start contributing 10% towards people's salaries - taxpayers will contribute the remaining 70%.
  • And in October, taxpayers will pay 60%, and employers will contribute 20%. 
Then, at the end of October - after eight months of this massive economic intervention of the government stepping in to pay wages - the scheme will close. In order to introduce the new flexible furlough scheme, the old scheme will close to new entrants on July 1st. Employers wanting to place new employees on the scheme will need to do so by June 10th to allow time to complete the minimum furlough period before then. 

Full details of all the support available is available on my Coronavirus website -, and as always, if you can't find the answer you need, please do not hesitate to get in touch.  

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Extended


Great news today from the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak - he has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended for an extra four months, until the end of October. By that point, eight months of support will have been provided to businesses.

There will be no changes to the scheme until the end of July, but from this point, employers who are currently using the scheme will be able to bring back furloughed workers part-time to allow for more flexibility as people get back to work in a measured way.

From August, employers will also be asked to start sharing the cost of wages with the government - however, employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 per month. 

The Job Retention Scheme is just one part of the huge package of support to help businesses and individuals get through this crisis. My website contains a comprehensive guide to the support available. Visit to find out more. My blog yesterday evening also sets out the key parts of the government's plan going forward. 

Monday, 11 May 2020

Stay alert, control the virus, save lives: the latest on coronavirus

Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson provided the latest update to the nation, and today the government has published a detailed 60-page document on the next steps as we face the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have summarised the key information below, but if you want to find out more, click here to download the government's 'Our Plan To Rebuild' document. 

It is now almost two months since the lockdown was first implemented. People across Tynedale and Ponteland have supported these rules overwhelmingly, and as a result, we are now past the peak of the virus. There are no regions where the epidemic appears to be increasing, the number of people in hospital with coronavirus, and the number of critical care beds in use is down significantly on this time last month.

However, this is an extremely serious pandemic, many thousands of people have very sadly lost their lives, and every single death is a tragedy.

The last two months have been a very difficult time for our country. I particularly want to pay tribute to the heroic efforts and sacrifice of our NHS and other key workers.

It is important to remember that this is not a short-term crisis. It is likely that COVID-19 will circulate in the population - both in the UK and around the world - long-term, possibly causing periodic epidemics. The only feasible, long-term solution lies in a vaccine or highly effective drug treatment. A vaccine could be more than a year away, and in a worst-case scenario – a vaccine may never be found.

The current lockdown cannot continue indefinitely. That is why the government has set out a three-stage roadmap to lift restrictions step-by-step in the coming weeks and months.

This will only happen if we successfully control the spread of the virus. If enough progress is not being made, the lifting of restrictions may be delayed.

Now is not the time to end the lockdown, but the government can take the first careful steps - as set out below - to modify the measures.


Step One

Step One will take place from this Wednesday, 13th May.

When the lockdown was implemented on March 23rd, the government said that you should work from home, and only go to work if you must. It now must be stressed that anyone who can’t work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing, should go to work.

To ensure that everybody is safe at work, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has established new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure. This has been developed with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive. Click here to find out more. 

Going outside more often

SAGE – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – has advised the government that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside. This means that as of Wednesday, there are a number of things that you will now be able to do that you could not do before:

• spend time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing.

• meet one other person from a different household outdoors - following social distancing guidelines.

• exercise outdoors as often as you wish - following social distancing guidelines.

• use outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis or basketball court, or golf course – with members of your household, or one other person while staying 2 metres apart.

• go to a garden centre.

It is important that if you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you must stay at home.

Face coverings

As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people’s immediate household. This means that you should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social-distancing is not always possible, and you come into contact with others that you do not normally meet, such as on public transport. This can help reduce the risk of transmission.

It is important to note that a face covering is not the same as a facemask, such as surgical masks or respirators used as Personal Protective Equipment used by healthcare workers. The government has issued guidance on how to make and wear a face covering, which you can read by clicking here. 

Step 2

The second step will not take place earlier than June 1st. The government currently plans for the following changes in the second stage, depending on the latest data and COVID-19 Alert level:

A phased return for early years settings and schools

The government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back at school in smaller sizes from this point. This will ensure that the youngest children and those preparing for the transition to secondary school have the maximum amount of time with their teachers.

It is the government’s ambition that all primary school children should be able to return to school for a month before the summer, and for Year 10 and 12 pupils with important exams next year to have some time with their teachers too, in support of continued remote learning.

Opening non-essential retail
Subject to retailers being able to follow new COVID-19 Secure guidelines, the intention is that non-essential retail will open in phases from June 1st. Guidance on which businesses will be covered and when will be issued shortly.

Permitting cultural and sporting events for broadcast
These will take place behind closed doors to avoid the risk of large-scale social contact.

Social and family contact
I understand that for the isolated and vulnerable, these restrictions have been extremely disruptive. The government is considering a range of options to reduce the most harmful social effects and to make the measures more sustainable.

SAGE is examining whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group. However, at present, the advice remains the same - you should not meet others from outside your household.

Step 3

In Step 3, the government's aims to open at least some of the remaining business premises that have been required to close. This includes hairdressers and beauty salons, restaurants, pubs, hotels, places of worship and cinemas. These venues will have to follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

As per step 2, this will take place when the assessment of risk warrants further adjustments to the remaining measures. This will be no earlier than 4th July.

Some venues which are crowded by design, and where it may be difficult to enact social distancing may not be able to safely re-open at this point.

Monitoring Coronavirus Levels

In order to chart progress in the weeks and months ahead, the government has announced a new COVID-19 Alert Level. This will be monitored and set by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre.


The alert level will be primarily affected by two key factors:

1. The R – that’s the reproduction rate of infection. This number is the average number of people one infected person passes coronavirus on to. You can find out more about R by watching this video.

2. The number of coronavirus cases in the UK.

The lower the level, the fewer social distancing measures, but the higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be.


The alert levels are:

Level 1: COVID-19 is not known to be present in the UK.

Level 2: COVID-19 is present in the UK, but the number of cases and transmission is low.

Level 3: A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation.

Level 4: A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially.

Level 5: As level 4, and there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

Over the period of the lockdown, Britain has been in Level 4, but we are now in a position to begin to move into Level 3.

We can and will control the virus if we all stay alert. That means staying at home as much as possible, working from home if you can, limiting contact with other people, keeping your distance when you go out, and washing your hands regularly.

For the small minority of people who do break the rules, bigger fines starting at £100 can now be handed out by the police.

As ever, for further information on the support available for business, individuals and employers, please visit my website -, and please get in touch with me in the usual way if you require assistance.

This Thursday at 6:30pm, I’ll be answering your questions on Coronavirus live on Facebook. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Britain will get through this. As a country, we have faced many tough challenges before. But we all have a responsibility to play our part and make this plan work. So remember, stay alert, so we can control the virus and save lives.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

An update on coronavirus going forward

I want to take this opportunity to update you on coronavirus.

This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out a comprehensive plan on how we can continue to suppress the coronavirus, whilst re-starting the economy, getting children back to school, and making travel to the work and the workplace safer.

Thanks to the vast majority of people staying at home, we have been able to shield the NHS and avoid an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic, where the reasonable worst case-scenario was 500,000 deaths.

We are now past the peak of the disease and are on the downward slope. But until a vaccine is developed, we will have to beat this disease by our growing resolve and ingenuity.

That is why this week, the government will set out a comprehensive plan on how we can continue to suppress the disease, and at the same time re-start the economy.

There are five key tests that must be satisfied before the government can put the comprehensive plan for phase two into action: 
  • We must protect the NHS’ ability to cope – we must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.
  • We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.
  • We need to have reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.
  • We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.
  • We need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.
Even as we move beyond the peak of coronavirus, it is still absolutely vital that everybody stays at home.

However, for the most vulnerable in society - home may not be the safe haven that it should be.

That's why the government has made an extra £76 million available to support survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and modern slavery, as well as ensuing vulnerable children and young people continue to get the help they need. This builds upon the commitment in the governments' landmark Domestic Abuse Bill that gives ‘priority need’ status to victims of domestic abuse so that no-one has to make the unbearable choice between staying somewhere where they know is unsafe or becoming homeless.

As far as possible, people need to stay at home. This will help to protect the NHS and save lives. 

Stay at home

You must stay at home, only leaving for the following very limited purposes: 
  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day – for example, a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your immediate household.
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Traveling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

Protect the NHS

You must stay at home to protect the NHS: 
  • The NHS only has a limited number of doctors, nurses and specialist equipment.
  • We are working around the clock to increase NHS capacity.
  • The more people who get sick, the harder it is for the NHS to cope.
  • We must slow the spread of the disease so that fewer people are sick at any one time.

Save lives

You must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. The police will have the powers to enforce the following restrictions: 
  • Dispersing gatherings of more than two people in public, excluding people you live with.
  • Issuing fines to anyone who does not comply with these rules.
  • Closing shops that are not essential, as well as playgrounds and places of worship.

The government has made available a huge package of support to help businesses and individuals get through this crisis. My website contains a comprehensive guide to the support available and is updated regularly. Visit to find out more. 

I have also set up a Coronavirus FAQ's section on my website, to answer as many questions as possible. You can find them at

You can find the most up to date medical advice at