Published On: Wed, Mar 25th, 2020

Martin Lewis warns of employers ‘playing fast and loose’ with coronavirus | Personal Finance | Finance


Speaking to BBC’s Coronaviruscast, the financial expert claimed some employers are forcing staff to go to work regardless of the Government’s financial support measures and advice to those vulnerable and at high risk from . shared the example of someone who was forced to go to work despite receiving a letter from the Government to stay at home for 12 weeks, as the employer refused to furlough them and making use of the financial support provided by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Mr Lewis said: “I got something from someone today who should be self-isolating because they’re in the vulnerable group but they have been told by their employer who could furlough them – because you can furlough people who are 12-weeks self-isolators – ‘no, I think we’re critical, you come to work or you take unpaid leave’.

“The problem with the financial structure of furloughing which I’m generally very supportive of is that it does rely on the employer’s goodwill and the employer to structure the furlough.

“And it’s the employer who makes decisions on who can or can’t be.

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“So there we have someone who has clear Government guidance they should not be at work but the employer is not invoking that and taking their unilateral decision to say no.

“The problem is this is virtually unfixable in society at the moment because what the Government is trying to do and what Rishi Sunak is trying to do is re-write decades worth of policies in days and trying to rely on goodwill and upstanding moral behaviour.

“I have to say I think the vast majority will do right.

“But if you fall between the cracks and you want an employer who wants to play fast and loose, then there’s nowhere to go.

“That’s a big difficulty at the moment.”

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to increase restrictions on construction workers as NHS England’s medical director said hundreds of thousands of tests for COVID-19 per day could become a reality within weeks.

Political pressure for more stringent rules on workers comes as Parliament looks likely to adjourn for an early Easter break after emergency legislation to tackle COVID-19 is approved.

The Coronavirus Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent on Wednesday, with a motion tabled for the House of Commons to rise the same day until April 21.

With people filling busy Tube trains on Wednesday morning, Boris Johnson is being asked to ban non-essential construction workers from heading to building sites and help stop the spread of the virus.

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Voices from across the political spectrum have argued for more stringent rules so workers are not placed at risk, and public transport is not overwhelmed.

Mr Johnson, who will appear before MPs on Wednesday for Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, has so far resisted the pressure.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted it is “sensible” for construction workers to keep heading to work if it is “safe to do so” and employers follow Public Health England’s guidance on social distancing.

On Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for 250,000 people to sign up as volunteers.



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