Jobs Retention Scheme Must Include Support for Seasonal Workers

Ian Blackford MP (pictured) has renewed calls for the UK Chancellor to amend the Jobs Retention Scheme guidance to ensure anyone who has started or was due to start a job in March receives support – including seasonal workers who would have been working this bank holiday weekend.

Guidance on the UK government’s Jobs Retention scheme states that an employer is not able to access government support for an employee taken on after 28th February this year, which excludes many seasonal workers working in the agriculture, tourism and hospitality sectors in Scotland and across the UK – who generally start in March to scale up business capacity for the summer season ahead.

SNP MPs have written a joint letter to Rishi Sunak urging him to immediately update the Jobs Retention Scheme guidance to allow workers employed after 28th February to qualify for support to prevent hardship for seasonal workers across Scotland.

The Leader of the SNP Westminster Group, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, has said that this situation will be felt acutely in his constituency and across the Highlands, where the hospitality and tourism industry is one of the main employers, representing up to 43% of employment in some areas.

Commenting, Mr Blackford said:

“Whilst I welcome the Jobs Retention Scheme and the other measures the UK government has brought in, there are still many loopholes to be closed to ensure everyone feeling the economic impact of the Coronavirus crisis has a safety net.

“As it stands, the Jobs Retention Scheme falls short of recognising geographical and sectoral differences across Scotland and the UK’s economy and risks leaving thousands of workers in my constituency – and across other rural parts of Scotland and the UK – ineligible for help by a matter of days.

“An otherwise good scheme set up to reduce unemployment will see so many facing unnecessary hardship.

“The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the main employers in the Highlands, representing up to 43% of employment in some areas compared with 8% in other parts of the country, and is a key driver of success in our rural economy.

“In thousands of cases, employment in this sector – and the agriculture sector – is seasonal, with jobs usually beginning in March and running until October.

“Seasonal workers who would normally be employed right now and working to accommodate families across Scotland and the UK during the Easter holidays are facing the prospect of being left behind with the only means of support being Universal Credit.

“I am urging the Chancellor to ensure seasonal workers and those who were due to begin work in March – and can demonstrate past employment history – are considered to be employees for the purposes of the Job Retention Scheme.”