The Jobs Retention Scheme has been a worthy lifeline to millions of Britons who have been unable to work during the coronavirus crisis. The mass state intervention has saved countless jobs and allowed hard-working Brits to face the virus and carry on providing for their families.
Announcing the furlough scheme in March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised Britons would “not face this alone” and “our planned economic response will be one of the most comprehensive in the world.”
However, all things must come to an end, and the scheme will begin the process of winding down with an announcement from the Chancellor on Tuesday, May 12.
In a move that is expected to make the Jobs Retention Scheme more flexible, the Chancellor will extend the scheme until September and begin to reduce how much recipients can receive to 60 percent of monthly wages.
Currently, those who have been furloughed can get 80 percent of their monthly wage, up to £2500, paid by the Government.
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They cannot undertake any work for their employer during this time.
The scheme will also top up the wages of those who are returning to work part-time, as part of phasing back into normal life.
The scheme has cost an estimated £16billion a month so far, and more than 16 million workers currently rely on the scheme.
Mr Sunak has previously insisted “there will be no cliff edge to the furlough scheme” as the Treasury considers its options for winding the scheme down.
Last week he said the scheme would not be sustainable for the long term, which was originally set up to run until the end of June.
Mr Sunak is preparing to announce that furloughed staff returning to work part-time will have their wages “topped up” by the Government.
Businesses will be incentivised to gradually bring staff back to work so that social distancing rules can be observed and operations can be slowly built back to pre-pandemic levels.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “The coronavirus job retention scheme is an absolutely crucial element of our financial support in protecting jobs and businesses through this crisis and has already supported millions of workers across the UK.
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“Future decisions around the scheme will take into account the wider context of any lockdown extension, as well as the public health response, so that people and businesses can get back to work when it is safe to do so.”
Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed his colleague when asked about upcoming changes to the scheme.
Mr Johnson said: “I have no desire to steal his thunder on that.
“But I can certainly tell that it has been one of the most salient, most important features of this country’s response so far to this crisis that we have looked after the lowest paid, some of the lowest paid people in our society, the hardest working people and we will continue to do so.”
He added: “I do think that the furloughing scheme has been one of the most remarkable features of the government’s response and it is unlike anything seen internationally.
“Six-and-a-half million people currently are being supported. It is absolutely right that we should do it.
“I don’t want to anticipate what is going to say but the House will hear more about that tomorrow.”
Mr Sunak’s announcement will come after the Prime Minister’s loosening of the lockdown in England, due to begin from Wednesday.
Those who cannot work from home have been asked to resume their usual jobs and unlimited outdoor exercise is now permitted, among other measures.
He also introduced a new Covid Alert System to be used as the UK moves through the pandemic, ranging from no threat to critical threat.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all rejected the idea of loosening their respective lockdowns.
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