On Thursday 23 April, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey attended an Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below is the speech given by the Secretary of State. Following the virtual meeting, the Ministers issued an agreed statement
Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey said:
Thank you Minister and good afternoon everyone.
Let me start by expressing my gratitude for the hard work and flexibility of the Presidency in enabling us to meet at short notice in these unprecedented times. I am honoured to be part of this important discussion. I believe that we, as G20 Labour and Employment Ministers, have a responsibility to provide a strong and coordinated response to the impact of COVID-19 on our labour markets.
Like no other issue, this pandemic throws light on the importance of the global family demonstrating our shared commitment to the multilateral framework. In just a few short months, everyday life has changed dramatically across the world and we have all felt the profound impact of this virus on our communities. The UK shares the deep sadness caused by the tragic loss of life and the suffering faced by people everywhere. I reiterate the commitment made by our Leaders during the extraordinary G20 summit in March, that tackling the pandemic should be our absolute priority. I welcome the adoption of the G20 Action Plan by our Finance Ministers last week, and in particular the commitments made to protect our workers.
On behalf of the British government, I also applaud the G20 presidency on the very significant pledge of $500m that Saudi Arabia has recently announced to the global effort to combat COVID-19.
My sincere thanks to Guy Ryder at the ILO, Gabriela Ramos at the OECD and Michal Rutkowski at the World Bank for your detailed analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on our labour markets. My thanks also to the B20 and L20, and for the correspondence received from the C20. We share the same objectives – to protect businesses and our labour forces, while enabling everyone to return to a strong working economy as quickly as possible.
During this turbulent time, the UK government has and will continue to take every step to ensure that no-one – whatever the status of their employment – is penalised for doing the right thing to protect themselves, their families and their communities.
Like many others around this table, we have announced an unprecedented package of measures to protect people’s jobs and incomes.
Firstly, we have introduced a COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme under which employers are eligible to apply for a government grant of 80% of a worker’s salary up to £2,500 a month.
Furthermore, to support those who contract the virus and are therefore unable to work, the UK Statutory Sick Pay provisions are now available from day one, ensuring those workers who are unwell have continuous financial certainty.
For the self-employed, the UK has introduced a scheme to enable eligible workers to receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least three months.
For those on low incomes, the UK has announced a package of temporary welfare measures worth over £6.5 billion.
For those on the frontline, it is vital that our occupational health and safety measures continue to protect health workers and others who continue to put themselves at risk to deliver critical public services at this difficult time.
The UK will continue to do whatever it takes to support those who are most vulnerable. We must ensure that our measures continue to protect all workers in need, regardless of employment status, age or gender. For example, we know that the impacts of the crisis are felt disproportionately by women, who are over represented as frontline care workers and continue to do the majority of unpaid care work. Our long-term ambition remains to build an economy where everyone has the opportunity to enter work and progress, while being supported by the welfare system in their time of need.
I am grateful for the opportunity to share the UK’s actions against the impact of COVID-19 on our labour market and for the opportunity to learn from the approaches taken in your countries.
Our strength will lie in our ability to truly learn from one another and to build positively on the global debate so that we can secure the best outcome for our countries and guide others in their response. The statement that we will release today is a testament to that. We are now in the midst of our critical and intensive period of response. Whatever gains we are making we have no time to rest, we must also turn our minds to the longer term consequences and to a sustainable and inclusive recovery of the global economy. Measures debated in this group will be critical to that longer-term outcome.
Minister, I thank your Presidency for your speed in action in setting up this meeting and I look forward to further debate today and in September. Thank you.