Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure to help thousands of people who will lose out on coronavirus cash.
Workers have slammed a “glaring loophole” in the Covid-19 job retention scheme that means it’s not available to people with a brand new job.
The unprecedented scheme will see the state pay 80% of the wages of any worker who is “furloughed” – put completely out of action – due to the virus.
Yet the rate is based on February’s wage, so anyone who started their job after February 28 is not eligible.
Tony MacDonald, 31, from Dundee, left his job of three years to start a new role as a fire safety engineer on March 2.
Now he and wife Logan, 30, have been left high and dry unable to support children Alfie, 12, and Aoife, 4, on her midwife’s salary alone.
Tony told the Mirror: “My wife’s wage doesn’t quite cover our bills, so there is a shortfall there without counting food or anything else.
“The worry is about getting ourselves into more debt just to see us through this period.
“At this stage my employer was good enough to pay me yesterday for what I’d already done. But after a month we will have to see.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today admitted some people will slip through the cracks.
He told Sky News: “There will be circumstances under which not every single last business or individual is helped. This is unfortunately the nature of the scale of this thing.”
He added: “It is probably the case we won’t be able to capture every single individual circumstance under any scheme that was ever put in place.”
But Mr MacDonald said the Cabinet minister’s defence of the scheme was “short-sighted”.
The safety engineer pointed out that anyone who was made redundant before March 1 can be re-hired and furloughed – but not those who quit to start a new job.
He called on the government to move the cut-off date at least to when a full lockdown was announced on March 20.
The Treasury has said people can claim Universal Credit – but with his wife’s wage, Tony says he is not eligible.
He said: “I realise where they’re coming from but there are people who’ve accepted job offers as far back as September.
“There’s one case where a guy moved, relocated his life, was in his job for three days and couldn’t be furloughed.”
A Treasury official said they picked the February 28 date because it is the last full set of PAYE data that HMRC will use as the reference for the claims.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “Our coronavirus job retention scheme is protecting thousands of jobs up and down the UK – with the government covering 80% of the salary of furloughed workers.
“Firms can re-employ staff made redundant after March 1 and those who do not qualify will be able to access a range of other support – including an increase in the Universal Credit allowance, income tax deferrals, £1 billion more support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays.”