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Vulnerable people face 'impossible choice between job or health', warns Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds

Vulnerable people face 'impossible choice between job or health', warns Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds (Credit: PA)

3 min read

Vulnerable people forced to shield against coronavirus for their own safety could face a "furlough cliff edge" unless ministers fix gaps in the scheme, Labour are warning.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds says people who have been unable to leave the house for medical reasons during the pandemic face "an impossible choice between their livelihood or their health” when the Government scheme comes to an end this week.

Under current guidance, the latest date an employer can furlough people on health grounds is Wednesday, 10 June. After 30 June, employers will only be able to continue to furlough employees who have previously been furloughed for at least three weeks.

But Ms Dodds warns "rigid deadlines" fail to take into consideration the fact that many people move in and out of shielded categories.

A new diagnosis of a serious illness after 10 June could leave anyone unable to work from home having to choose between having enough money to live on and their health, the frontbencher said. 

"The physical, emotional and mental toll on those who have had to shield for health reasons over the last ten weeks will have been huge," she added.

"To face imminent worries about their work situation on top of this is unimaginable.

“The government must now shield those shielding by fixing the holes in the furlough scheme that put thousands of jobs at risk."

Labour wants ministers to adopt its 'three point plan', which would see shielding workers exempted from the 10 June deadline; exempt employers from having to increase their contributions towards the salary cost of furloughed employees who are shielding and allow shielding employees a right to be furloughed by their employer if they cannot work from home.

Vulnerable people could face additional financial hardship from August, Ms Dodds said, when the furlough scheme begins to wind down and if employers have not made any special provision for those who cannot work safely outside their homes.

“The three-point plan we are setting out today would provide support and certainty at this difficult time," she added.

“Failure to act before Wednesday’s furlough cliff-edge could force many of the most vulnerable into an impossible choice between their livelihood or their health."

Labour leader Keir Starmer told an LBC phone-in on Monday he hoped ministers would fix the problems highlighted, in response to a call from a 30-year-old worker currently shielding. 

"Where they’ve done the right thing we support them," Sir Keir said.

"Furlough was a good thing, but now we need two things really: a bit of flexibility because we can see that one size doesn’t fit all – some sectors are going to struggle more than others."

He added: "We’ll raise it with the Chancellor and hope that he fills that gap because I don’t want people like yourself or others in a similar position not to get the support that you need. So that is a gap that we want to fill. 

"I’m hoping in a constructive way that once we’ve pointed it out to the Government they may say, well actually that’s a fair point and we’ll fill that gap."

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