Debate Magazine

Every Day Feels Saturday; Every Evening Feels Like Friday.

Posted on the 27 March 2020 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

I find this whole 'working from home' and 'lock down' experience strange, but not totally unpleasant.
Obviously, I'm not sure that the government will come to its senses before the economy totally collapses, so that's a bit of a worry. But there's bugger all I can do about it*, but on a purely practical, day-to-day level, it's not that bad.
I went to four days a week recently, meaning that I need to get five-and-a-half hours' worth of work onto my time-sheet every day. There's no commute, so I can wake up at my natural time and get those hours in, interrupted with, and followed by sitting in the garden; researching my next post; driving round in circles (on empty roads - bonus!) - all the stuff I normally do on a weekend. It's like a Saturday, interrupted by finishing off a couple of bits and pieces for work.
But the evenings feel like Friday again, you know you can have a lie-in the next day, and there are a few bits and pieces you'll have to do the next day, but nothing too stressful...
* Apart from recommend the obvious...
a) A freeze on all rents, which they have done for hospitality and retail sectors, but why not for everybody? For residential tenants, there's some chat about protection from evictions, but that's pretty half-hearted (or hard-hearted?)*. Same goes for Business Rates and Council Tax. They buggered up the Business Rates free period, because it only applies to small businesses and lasts a whole year. Hey! Large businesses are in the same mess and employ people too!
b) All mortgages to be interest-free with no mortgage repayments for the duration, plus the next month while people get back on their feet. This applies to households, businesses and landlords. And it applies to banks vis-a-vis their depositors. If I lose that 1% interest on my cash ISA for two or three months, so what?
c) And a Universal Basic Income for anybody who claims it. This might be less than people would get under Universal Credit, but they can start paying it out immediately, instead of being swamped with UC claims and fannying about for a month or two processing them all. All DWP and/or HMRC needs to know is your NI number, home address and bank details and they can start paying out £75/week per person (or however much). There'll be no need for housing top-ups because of a) and b) above. HMRC can adjust people's PAYE codes to that claimants lose the personal allowances. So employees who are still being paid (fingers crossed that includes me) have no incentive to claim.
The whole idea of the government paying 80% of salaries or reported self-employment income is like inverse means testing - it is completely insane. And making employers pay salaries to people who are banned from working is equally nuts. Those staff can just be put 'on furlough' (another Americanism, but one I quite like) to be re-hired on same terms and conditions as soon as the bans are lifted. Like maternity or paternity leave, just for a much shorter period.
On a lighter note, young Rishi Sunak came up with something cunning (same link as above):
As part of the latest announcement, the chancellor also suggested tax breaks for the self-employed, such as lower national insurance may end in the future. These were in place because, for example, the self-employed do not get sick pay or holiday pay, and to encourage entrepreneurship. This signals a massive change in UK tax policy, potentially equalising the tax treatment of the self-employed with employees.
I just hope that they reduce Employer's and Employee's NI to match the increase in self-employed NI, to keep the whole thing revenue-neutral. 'Hope' in this context means of course they won't do it.

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