Dundee city centre workers are facing months of financial uncertainty after being caught up in red tape surrounding the furlough scheme.
As businesses across the country closed post-Christmas amid a fresh round of coronavirus restrictions, some workers have fallen foul of bureaucracy.
Tess Schulze is among them. The 30-year old started working in a city centre cafe in October as the hospitality sector tentatively reopened.
But she found out on Christmas Day that she could not be placed on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJBS) because of when her first payment was processed.
Tess received furlough payments during the first lockdown, but starting a new job in autumn has had dire consequences on her situation.
While she has been told she has a job to return to when the hospitality sector reopens, the situation has left Tess facing no income for the foreseeable future.
Tess, who has lived in Scotland for about six years after moving from America, has also been told she cannot receive Universal Credit because her partner is in employment.
The furlough scheme was originally set to expire last October, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended it twice as the fight against coronavirus continues.
A HMRC spokesman said a RTI (real time information) date was set to deter fraudulent use of the scheme.
Tess said: “I am very frustrated. I have been a hard worker and have followed the rules, but I feel like I have been let down by the government.
“I have been dropped into a situation that I can’t do anything about, which makes me very angry.
“I am lucky that I have people looking out for me, but not everyone will be as fortunate.
“The pandemic has highlighted issues, such as women trapped in abusive relationships, in society even more.
“There will be so many others left without government support like me. Some won’t be as lucky as I am.”
Another worker at a city centre cafe, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I am in a really bad situation at the moment because during lockdown I will not be paid anything — either from my employer or the government.
“According to my employer I can’t be placed on furlough because I was first paid in December. If I was paid in October I would now be paid through furlough. That’s how I understand it.”
A HMRC spokesperson said: “The RTI deadline of October 30 2020 was chosen because it is the day before the extension of the CJRS was announced.
“This allows as many people as possible to be included by going right up to the day before the announcement and balances the risk of fraud that exists as soon as the scheme extension became public.
“Extending the cut-off date beyond October 30 would significantly increase the risk of abuse because claims could not be confidently verified using known RTI employment data after this point.
“We understand that this has been a very difficult time for many people, and some will feel that it is unfair if they are not eligible for the CJRS. Further information about additional support available during this difficult time can be found at: www.gov.uk/coronavirus/worker-support.”
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