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Steve Rotheram Launches the Liverpool City Region's 1st Fair Employment Charter

METRO Mayor Steve Rotheram launched the Liverpool City Region's 1st Fair Employment Charter, on an online event, that was held on Tuesday, 9 February, 2021. Steve Rotheram urged all employers across the City Region to sign up as fair employers, who pay staff the Real Living Wage and offer more avenues to training and progression. Developed in partnership with over 300 local employers of all sizes, trade unions and workers, the Charter is designed to promote businesses who offer secure, properly paid jobs and treat staff well. It will also work with aspiring businesses to help them take steps to improve their own practices. The charter has the backing of the national trade union body, the TUC, which represents around 5.5 million workers across the country. TUC General Secretary, Frances O'Grady, took part by making an addressed at the event. Approval of the Fair Employment Charter by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority fulfils a manifesto commitment made by Mayor Rotheram before his election in 2017.

Speaking about the Fair Employment Charter, Steve Rotheram said:- "Our Fair Employment Charter is central to the work we're doing to make our Region the fairest, most inclusive Region possible. This agenda is now more important than ever as we look towards rebuilding our economy in the wake of the COVID Pandemic. Since the start of the Pandemic we have done all we can to keep our businesses afloat. We introduced a ₤40 million emergency fund and have given grants to 1700 businesses in the leisure, Hospitality and retail sectors, and within their supply chains. And we'll always try to support local businesses whenever we can. But we also have to support our workers as well. The Pandemic has highlighted the key role that workers in logistics, retail, and health and social care play in keeping our society functioning. We need to ensure that they, and everyone else, are fairly rewarded and able to work in conditions that don't put their health at risk. A fair day's pay for a fair day's work in safe, decent conditions should be the minimum any of us should expect in our working lives, and the great bulk of our employers in the City Region already deliver that. Our charter is about recognising the good employers and seeking to persuade the rest to do the decent thing. If you are an employer in the Liverpool City Region, we want to work with you. Whether you're already doing good work, or you'd like to get better, through our charter we want your help to make our Region the best place in the country to work."

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:- "No matter what job you do, we all deserve dignity at work. But too many workers are treated without respect; denied safety, security and fair pay. The Fair Employment Charter shows what is possible when politicians, employers and trade unions come together. It sets out a compelling vision of a City where working families all have a chance to thrive. And it can make the economy not only fairer, but stronger; a magnetic for good businesses. We hope Westminster is watching, because where the Liverpool City Region is leading the whole of the UK should follow."

Daphne Doody Green, Head of CIPD Northern England, said:- "We are delighted to support this charter in encouraging fair and inclusive workplaces, which are fundamental to people's wellbeing and development. As the professional body for HR and the people profession, we champion better work and working lives, and our wide range of resources and tools; on good quality work and employment; will help provide guidance for people professionals in getting involved in this movement to increase the availability of fair work across the Liverpool City Region."

More than a
¼ of the Liverpool City Region's workforce, made up of those who live in:- Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral, earn less than the Real Living Wage, with an estimated 19,000 workers on zero hours contracts. The Fair Employment Charter has been developed following an extensive engagement exercise including businesses, staff, trade unions, and the public, who were asked about their experiences of work, what makes a good workplace and what they thought good and fair work should look like. The final stage of development of the Fair Employment Charter has been guided by a Reference Group, made up of Trades Unions, Unions, CIPD, ACAS, community and voluntary sector and both public and private employers. Throughout the development process, there has been clear support for a Charter which celebrates fairness, inclusion and justice, and a strong focus on healthy workplaces. The accreditation process for the Charter has been designed so that employers can progress through levels, enabling them to show that they are working towards being a fair employer; becoming a fair employer; and then having exemplary practice in fair employment. The intention is to identify fair employment practices where they exist and celebrate them accordingly, and to build the broader movement of employers so that fair employment practices become even more of a norm within the City Region.

British Red Cross calls for emergency funding and better support for those facing financial and emotional hardship as we move out of lockdown

"TOO many risk going without essentials like food, clothes and energy, unless cash support is bolstered when we exit national lockdown" says the British Red Cross. A new report finds information and support available to the most vulnerable dropped at the point where the national lockdown eased in 2020, even in areas that remained under the highest level of restrictions.

The Red Cross fears the chain reaction caused by an end to national lockdowns and the furlough payment being cut off, in April 2021, will drive millions off a cliff edge; leaving them unable to recover from the impact of the Pandemic on their finances and mental health.

The charity is calling for easy access to emergency cash support for those hit hardest by the Pandemic. Based on research conducted between October and December 2020 when tiered restrictions were in place, the Red Cross's report, The Longest Year, says 2 groups have been hardest hit by the Pandemic. The 1st is a:- 'newly vulnerable' group of people who have never needed help before and are struggling due to stigma and not knowing where to go for support. The second is a group of people who were struggling before the Pandemic and are now:- 'on the brink,' facing impossible choices between essentials like food, heating, or clothing for their children.

For both groups, a lack of clear information about the rules in their area, made problems worse and led many to put themselves into:- 'self imposed' lockdown, limiting interactions with family and friends even when it was safe to see people, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Research conducted between October and December 2020, shows that when tiered restrictions were in place:-

 56% of adults in the North West find it hard to talk about their problems when so many people are having a difficult time.

 49% of adults in the North West found it difficult to keep up to date with the latest Coronavirus restrictions in their area and more than 3/4 (76%) found it easier to limit how much they left home rather than try to keep up with changes to the restrictions.

 36% of adults in the North West were not confident about where to go to access financial support, despite 13% saying that financial support for essential items such as food, clothes and toiletries would have been helpful to them under local restrictions.

Paul Etches, Emergency Response Operations Manager, at the British Red Cross, says:- "Local and national Governments have the best intentions but too many people have fallen through the cracks."

As Governments consider what will replace national lockdowns, The Red Cross calls for:-

 The UK Government to give ₤250 million a year to Local Authorities in England to top up:- 'local welfare assistance schemes' which provide emergency short term cash for people whose circumstances change quickly as a result of the Pandemic.

 Governments across the UK should review and urgently improve access to self isolation support payments, so it's simpler to apply, especially for people on low incomes, or who would struggle to self isolate without the payments.

 Information about changes to restrictions to be made clearer with financial and emotional support promoted alongside every update.

Etches continues:- "Our report shows the inextricable link between financial insecurity and mental health, and that the point at which someone faces hardship is a crucial moment to catch them before they fall into a more desperate situation. When you feel like your life is spinning out of control, having agency over the small things; like the cereal you buy or the ingredients for your dinner; makes all the difference. We need flexible and easy to access cash support to give people back their dignity, while also giving them the breathing room to get back on their feet. As we come out of the Pandemic, we must develop a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be vulnerable and normalise asking for help; whether practical, emotional or financial."  

At the outset of the Pandemic, the Red Cross set up a Hardship Fund which provides emergency cash support to people in vulnerable situations. Funded by Aviva and the Aviva Foundation, the Hardship Fund has, to date, given over ₤2.4 million to people in urgent need.

Individuals can't refer themselves to the Hardship Fund; they are referred to it via a network of community based referral partners. These include some:- Local Authorities, charities, and other groups working with vulnerable people.

The charity suggests Local Authorities adopt a similar model of cash grants, to help people buy basics like food and to make dignified decisions about the things they need.

The Red Cross also set up a free and confidential Coronavirus support line on:- 0808196365, for anyone who is lonely, worried or in need of practical or emotional support during the Pandemic.

The charity is calling on Governments to advertise services like this alongside changes to restrictions.

Amy, 29, was among those interviewed in the report who didn't know where to turn for emotional support despite suffering regular panic attacks after nearly a year spent in lockdown. 

Amy lives alone on the border of 2 areas near Greater Manchester. When the tiered system was 1st introduced, she became confused about whether to follow the rules for Manchester or those of the neighbouring area.  

She decided to stick to what she has been doing since March 2020 rather than keep up with:- 'unclear' restrictions. She says the time spent alone has given her:- 'too much time to overthink' making her anxiety and loneliness worse.  

Amy tried to ask for help during the 1st national lockdown, but wasn't sure where to go. She hates phone calls and finds it hard to talk about her problems.   She said:- "I was having a panic attack and I tried calling a support line because I wanted to vent and get things off my chest. I just wanted advice or someone to just distract me.  I called it, but remember chickening out when someone answered because wasn't able to speak. Which is why I think live chat would be a lot better."

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