Coronavirus: Emergency package to help workers with jobs and wages to be revealed

Emily Mee, news reporter

The chancellor is set to unveil an emergency package today to help workers whose jobs and wages could be hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Treasury officials are working on plans to support people who find they cannot work and those who have lost their jobs because of the virus.

Wage subsidies for some workers are being discussed after businesses called on Boris Johnson to pause a range of taxes, including National Insurance and income tax, to help employers and staff over the worst of the financial disruption.

The Times has reported the Treasury is considering these measures, with one source suggesting the government could effectively underwrite 60% of the average national wage for each worker.

It follows another emergency interest rate cut by the Bank of England to an historic 0.1%.

Rishi Sunak has been under pressure from Labour, unions and senior Tory MPs to do more to protect workers.

Earlier this week, he revealed a £330bn package of government-backed loans aimed at helping businesses struggling because of the coronavirus.

But he has faced calls to offer more direct support to workers as ministers were warned the current package was failing to stop redundancies.

Former business secretary Greg Clark urged the government to pay wages if companies agreed to keep workers on.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: "At a stroke this would save jobs, save businesses and put an immediate end to the contagion and help save the economy."

The prime minister has said the government will "stand by the workers of this country".

"I'm all too aware of the difficulties and worries they face," he said.

Mr Johnson continued: "As we come through this difficult economic phase you remember what happened in 2008 - everyone said we bailed out the banks and didn't look after the people who really suffered.

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"This time we're going to make sure that we look after the people who really suffer from the economic consequences of what we are asking them to do.

"We are going to be directing our support to them first, looking after the people first."

During his daily press conference, Boris Johnson also said he was confident we could "turn the tide" on the spread of the virus within 12 weeks.

He urged the public to follow advice on social distancing and said the UK would be ramping up COVID-19 testing.

Britons have been told to avoid unnecessary travel and stop going to bars, restaurants and other places.

Working from home has been encouraged where possible.

Schools are also closing from the end of lessons today, although the children of key workers and vulnerable children will still be allowed to attend school.