Coronavirus: U.K. Government to Cover 80 Percent of Employee Wages

Courtesy of Cineworld

Cineworld in London's Leicester Square

The latest financial scheme was put in place just as widespread layoffs were being felt across the entertainment industry.

The U.K. government has put in place another series of unprecedented financial measures aimed at assisting the economy during the coronavirus crisis. 

As part of Friday's press briefing, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a scheme to pay 80 percent of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 ($2,900) a month. Companies and organizations will be able to apply for a grant to cover the wages of people not working due to the coronavirus shutdowns, but who haven't been laid off, and the grant will last initially for three months.

The move comes just as mass layoffs are taking place in the entertainment sector, with exhibition giant Cineworld — which shut its cinemas in the U.K. and Ireland on Tuesday —having already begun shedding staff. Many on social media were now calling on the company to reverse the decision in order to include its former employees in the scheme. 

However, this wage support measure didn't include the U.K.'s many freelancers in the creative sector, who stand to be among the hardest hit by the crisis, with productions having ground to a halt indefinitely. On Thursday, the head of the directors association Directors U.K. urged the government to introduce proportional income support for this workforce, with a new survey showing that half of freelancers had already lost money as a result of the pandemic.

With prime minister Boris Johnson having previously urged people to stay away from pubs, bars and theaters — a move that led to the vast majority of U.K. cinemas closing their doors of their own accord — on Friday he formally ordered a shutdown, instructing all cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, gyms, cinemas and leisure centers to close that night.