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LOCKDOWN only started a week ago. It seems longer. Since then we’ve had to change our lives and ways of working rapidly. I’ve already had my first Zoom meeting with several work colleagues. Everyone appears as little video squares sitting in their homes, but if you’re clever you can set your background image to being onthe moon or a beautiful desert island with resplendent palm trees.

A desert island is apt because we are all essentially housebound and isolated, save for a daily constitutional of exercise and shopping for essentials. I’m giving my first virtual speech today at a webinar and this evening will be having some pizza via Zoom with family in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth. It’s a bit like the Matrix where we live a virtual life. Except we don’t have Neo’s superpowers and there’s no option to be blissfully ignorant of what’s really going on. This is real and we know it.

In these lockdown times there’s a great need for pragmatic support and sound advice and assistance. While the UK Government will roll out its grant scheme for the self-employed, that won’t happen until June, and it remains unclear who will be in and who will be out. There are around five million self-employed workers in the UK and at present two million of them may be excluded because they

only started self-employment recently or pay too little in tax. Cracks in the system need to be resolved quickly in the public interest.

Many employers are causing unnecessary stress and grief

for their staff. Insisting that non-essential workers must come into work otherwise they won’t get paid is silly, wrong and unnecessary. The UK Government’s furlough scheme is available for employees who can’t work at home, or where businesses can’t trade, and would otherwise have to make people redundant. There is no need to make any worker redundant

while the furlough scheme meets 80% of gross salary up to £2500 per month.

I’ve had some interesting requests for advice over the past few days – from employers just not paying sick pay to more complicated ones where part-time workers are asked to sign a furlough agreement with their employer. To be fair, many employers agree to make up the part-time salary to 100%, but if you’re only contracted to work 12 hours a week that’s not enough to get by on.

In one case, the employer required a part-time worker to sign a furlough agreement that would restrict any full-time paid work being undertaken until the agreement ended. The first thing to remember here is if you have regular overtime, your employer has to calculate your furlough pay as an average with overtime included. That’s because your pay varies.

The UK Government guidance says: “If the employee has been employed (or engaged by an employment business) for a full 12 months prior to the claim, you can claim for the higher of either: the same month’s earning from the previous year or the average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.”

In my opinion, a furlough agreement for a part-time

worker should only restrict paid work during that employee’s average working hours. Otherwise, the employer runs foul of the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000. Because they aren’t treating the part-time worker on a pro-rata basis with full-time staff.

Many workers are facing a worrying drop in their income and even if they can claim universal credit with some housing costs this can take a lot of time to process. Even then, things can go wrong. People need to put themselves and family first and take sound, free advice to strengthen their position. There are lots of vulnerable people across the city, and I am hearing reports of an upturn in financial scams and exploitation by criminals and fraudsters. This is seriously troubling.

That’s why Govan Law Centre has spent the last few days redesigning all of its legal services.

From today we will now provide free and confidential advice through WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and e-mail. We are also launching a free call-back telephone service, where you can leave us a message and a solicitor, welfare rights worker or money advisor will call you back for free.

We can provide all of our legal and advice services remotely and where emergency court action is required, we can do that too. You can get the different easy ways to contact us at or on Twitter: @GovanLawCentre ... everything is confidential, free and secure.

If you are feeling worried about something – whether it be employment, money, debt, housing or access to public services – please get in touch and we will do our very best to take the strain and put things right for you.