(Bloomberg) --

Bolstering the wages and working conditions of low-paid workers in Britain should be a priority when the government starts to withdraw the economic support put in place during the coronavirus crisis, according to the Resolution Foundation.

Those employees need a post-pandemic settlement giving them better pay and more control, the think tank said in a report published Wednesday. Low-wage workers have emerged as one of the most vulnerable groups to the virus in Britain: they’re more likely to be in roles where their health is at risk, and are also more likely to have their hours cut or lose their jobs altogether.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is drawing up options to bolster the economy as the government deliberates how to wind down the financial package introduced during the crisis, including an employment support program.

“Britain’s post-pandemic economy will look different from the one before coronavirus hit,” said Hannah Slaughter, an economist at the Resolution Foundation. “For low earners, that should be because the government has put in place a new settlement, based on more respect, higher pay, and better conditions at work.”

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A separate report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research showed the difficulties the economy will face as it slowly emerges from lockdown. More than half a million companies said they were at high risk of insolvency.

Still, in a sign of optimism, the number of firms with a positive outlook about the next year exceeded those with a negative for the first time since the outbreak, CEBR said.

The government should make sure people have more control over the hours they work, allow them to choose how regularly they are paid by large firms, and ensure rights are upheld through a new enforcement body, the Resolution Foundation said.

Wage boards made up of companies, employees and industry representatives should also be established, especially in sectors that clearly need standards raised for workers such as social care.

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