COVID-19 (the coronavirus) is having a profound effect on freelancers, gig workers, and companies. People have to choose between self-isolation with a loss of income, or money with a risk to health. To help them and help prevent the spread of the pandemic, many European countries are introducing emergency measures.
Short-term and freelance workers aren’t entitled to sick pay in the same way that full-time workers are, which means people are forced to go to work despite the situation. Social distancing is essential to flatten the curve and prevent the virus, and in turn, relieve pressure on health services. As well, companies with regular employees are suffering, which may impact the economy.
Hardline quarantine methods in China dropped the number of new infections from 1,600 to only 36 in the space of a month – so what are governments in Europe doing to help?
The United Kingdom
- The UK government has made temporary changes to statutory sick pay.
- People with the virus can claim from their first day of being sick rather than waiting four days.
- Sick staff no longer require a doctor’s note if it’s virus-related.
- Temporary and freelance workers cannot apply for statutory sick pay, but other state assistance processes have also been made easier.
- A fund for vulnerable households and individuals in hardship has been implemented.
- Businesses will be helped to defer payments.
- The Irish government has relaxed the requirements to apply for statutory sick pay.
- Everyone, including gig economy workers, has a course of income even if they self-isolate with virus symptoms
- The six-day waiting expectation for sickness pay has been lifted in cases of confirmed COVID-19 or anyone self-isolating on medical advice.
- Payments will rise to €305 per week, a 50% increase from before.
- It will cover two full weeks of medically advised self-isolation or the entire duration of the coronavirus case after it has been diagnosed.
- The government is also asking all employers to keep paying those self-isolating due to the virus the difference between their usual wages and the new increased sickness benefits.
- Companies affected by COVID-19 will get state aid to help pay salaries
- The Danish government will cover 75% of wage expenses to help companies.
- Employees have to take five days of their vacation time or time off from work.
- The three-month offer aims to make companies send their employees home rather than laying them off entirely.
- Sharan Burrow, the International Trade Union Confederation’s General Secretary, has expressed high approval over both Denmark and Ireland’s measures. She highly recommends other countries follow their lead.
- According to finance minister Olaf Scholz, companies are offered loans of “no upper limit” in value to stop them from collapsing during the pandemic.
- These loans will go to both small and large businesses to protect jobs and the economy.
- Businesses will also be able to defer taxes.
- The state development bank, KfW, has 0.5 trillion euros to support Germany’s economy which is the biggest economy in Europe