SCOTLAND’S former chief medical officer was, by all accounts, first class at her job. I’m a graduate of the Johnny Cash school of redemption. I believe in forgiveness when it’s sincerely sought. But therein lies the problem. The Scottish Government has handled this episode with the grace and tact of a grizzly bear on stilts.

Telling us that Dr Catherine Calderwood had only been to check up on her house in Fife was a nonsense that evaporated within hours. She had been to her second home, with family in tow, two weekends on the trot. These were jolly breaks that no-one is allowed under the lockdown rules. Many have pleaded Dr Calderwood made an honest mistake and this has all been a disgraceful witch-hunt.

Flagrantly breaking the rules, you preach to the public every day isn’t a mistake. It isn’t even careless, reckless or feckless. It was a self-entitled slap in the face to every single person in the country who has been unable to visit family and friends or attend the funeral of a loved one. She had to go, and it’s important that we all move on and continue to respect the lockdown rules.

I’ve been concerned that many employers aren’t following new changes to the law on statutory sick pay (SSP). Last week, Govan Law Centre (GLC) was contacted online by a carer who works for a large Scottish company, working 50-70 hours each week to support her four kids. She has a life-limiting condition and had to self-isolate for 12 weeks, in line with the Scottish Government’s shielding guidance.

Her employer wrongly told her she wasn’t eligible for the government’s furlough scheme, and would only be entitled to 14 days SSP, and nothing after that. She didn’t know how she would survive until June. From last month, SSP now covers those self-isolating in line with public health guidance. The change can be found in regulation 2 of the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020.

It’s also wrong to say that someone shielding in line with government guidance isn’t eligible for the furlough scheme. The UK guidance states that “Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough”. I was delighted to hear that our client’s employer subsequently sent an email round all of their workers advising they could be furloughed if approved by HR and updating staff on SSP changes.

Many small and medium sized businesses are reporting they have yet to receive any furlough payments from the UK Government. This is a worry because most businesses don’t have much cash coming in because of lockdown. If the job retention scheme is to work properly, we really need the Bank of England to intervene to ensure banks provide low-cost overdraft facilities to firms.

Some employers whose staff can’t work at home are requiring them to use up their annual leave. This is mean spirited, particularly as the UK Government has changed the law to enable non-public holiday entitlement to be carried over on a two-year basis. Employers need to be fair.

It’s legally permissible under the 1998 Working Time Regulations for an employer to give notice and insist that a worker takes holidays during lockdown. I think the relevant UK Minister for business – Paul Scully MP – should amend these regulations to stop employers forcing workers to use up all of their holidays during lockdown.

It’s important to make sure you are receiving all monies you’re entitled to. One of my colleagues had a telephone chat with a self-employed client in Glasgow last week and discovered that his son was receiving child disability living allowance, but they hadn’t claimed for a carer’s allowance.

This claim can be made entirely online, and payment is within two weeks. The client’s wife will receive a carer’s allowance of £66.15 per week and their universal credit award will also be increased by £160 per month. That’s an extra £3500 of household income over the year.

If you are self-employed and have paid enough national insurance contributions there is now “new style” employment support allowance, which is a non-means tested benefit. If you don’t quality for that you should be able to apply for universal credit and ask for an immediate advance payment – this is a loan but is payable immediately. Unfortunately, the UK Government support package for people who are self-employed isn’t available until June but will be backed dated to March.

You can apply for this grant only if you completed a tax return in 2018/19, have been trading in 2019/20, intend to trade in the tax year 2020/21 and have lost trading profits due to the coronavirus. Your profits from self-employment must be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income must come from self-employment.

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