Coronavirus furlough scheme extended until October – but will the changes affect you?
- Credit: PA
The government’s furlough scheme - to pay workers unable to earn because of the coronavirus crisis - is being extended until October, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.
But after July there will be changes aimed at getting companies to share the cost – and to bring more people back to work.
Mr Sunak told the House of Commons: “Full details will follow by the end of May, but I want to assure people today of one thing that won’t change. Workers will, through the combined efforts of Government and employers, continue to receive the same level of overall support as they do now at 80% of their current salary up to £2,500 a month.
“I’m extending the scheme because I won’t give up on the people who rely on it. Our message today is simple: we stood behind Britain’s workers and businesses as we came into this crisis, and we will stand behind them as we come through the other side.”
Mr Sunak continued: “Until the end of July there will be no changes whatsoever. Then from August to October, the scheme will continue for all sectors and regions of the UK but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work.
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“Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time. And we we will ask employers to start sharing with the Government the cost of paying people’s salaries.”
Last month Mr Sunak said there warned that the scheme could not continue indefinitely because of its cost – it has been estimated that it is costing the Treasury as much as the NHS – but there were concerns from many that businesses would not be able to get back on their feet.
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Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said many were taken aback by comments attributed to government officials suggesting people need to be “weaned off an addiction” to the furlough scheme.
She said she had only heard about the chancellor’s changes “in the last few seconds” and will examine them “very, very carefully”.
Ms Dodds said people do not want to be furloughed, adding in the Commons: “It’s critically important they are not penalised for that choice. We welcome the flexibility mentioned, we’ve asked for this repeatedly.”
Mr Sunak replied: “The use of the word ‘addiction’ is not one I have ever used and not one I agree with.
“Nobody who is on the furlough scheme wants to be on this scheme. People up and down this country believe in the dignity of their work, going to work, providing for their families, it’s not their fault their business has been asked to close or asked to stay at home.
“That is why I established this scheme to support these people and their livelihoods at this critical time.”
The news was welcomed by the TUC. General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We are pleased ministers have listened to unions and extended the job retention scheme to the autumn. This will be a big relief for millions.
“Changing the rules to allow part-time working is key to enabling a gradual and safe return to work. And maintaining the rate at 80% is a win for the pay packets of working families. As the economic consequences of Covid-19 become clear, unions will keep pushing for a job guarantee scheme to make sure everyone has a decent job.”