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Decision helps 7.5m workers

Sunak extends furlough scheme to end of October

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak: ‘no cliff edge’

UPDATE: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the scheme to pay the wages of more than seven million furloughed workers until the end of October and at the current rate of 80% of salary.

Mr Sunak said the current scheme will remain the same until the end of July, but from August to October there will be “greater flexibility” with employers expected to share the cost.

The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.

“Employers will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time. We will ask employers to share the costs of paying people’s salaries,” he said.

“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.”

The Government will also explore ways to support furloughed workers who wish to do additional training or learn new skills during this period.

The Treasury is currently spending between £10b and £14bn a month underpinning wages while workers are temporarily on leave from their jobs.

About 7.5 million workers – a quarter of the workforce – are now covered by the scheme, up from 6.3 million last week.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Firms will, of course, want more detail on how they will contribute to the scheme in the future and will work with Government to get this right.

British Chambers of Commerce director General Adam Marshall said: “The extension of the Job Retention Scheme will come as a huge help and a huge relief for businesses across the UK.

The Chancellor is once again listening to what we’ve been saying

– Adam Marshall, BCC

“The Chancellor is once again listening to what we’ve been saying, and the changes planned will help businesses bring their people back to work through the introduction of a part-time furlough scheme.

“We will engage with the Treasury and HMRC on the detail to ensure that this gives companies the flexibility they need to reopen safely.”

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, which has helped almost 800,000 employers, has been hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a unique feature of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is unlike anything seen internationally, with 6.5 million people currently being supported. It is absolutely right that we should do it,” he said last night.

“One of the most salient and important features of this country’s response to this crisis so far is that we have looked after some of the lowest-paid people in our society – the hardest-working people – and we will continue to do so.”

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However, Mr Sunak last week promised that there would be no “cliff-edge” for businesses to face when the scheme is brought to an end – but he confirmed that the Treasury was looking to “wind down” the programme because its cost to the taxpayer was not “sustainable”.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Government has stepped-up with a raft of support mechanisms to help them through. 

“The vast majority of small employers have furloughed staff and they’re telling us loud and clear that the ability to do so on a part-time basis as we move towards recovery will be key to keeping their operations afloat. 

The Government today published statistics that show businesses have benefitted from over £14 billion in loans and guarantees to support their cashflow during the crisis.

This includes 268,000 Bounce Back Loans worth £8.3 billion, 36,000 loans worth over £6 billion through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and £359 million through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The latest plan comes as the UK government continues to come in for criticism over its return-to-work programme, in particular his Sunday night television broadcast which left people north and south of the border confused about the message.

Mr Johnson yesterday used the daily Downing Street briefing to clarify the new rules, saying employers would need to prove they met a new safety standard, dubbed “Covid secure”.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy released new guidance for UK employers on how to implement social distancing measures.

These propose staggered start times, screens between workers and increased cleaning.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady cautiously welcomed the new workplace guidance, saying it was a “step in the right direction”.

Sturgeon unveils more business support

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the government will top up its business grants offer by £31 million to help charities and others who have slipped through the current schemes.

She also repeated that the lockdown remains in place and said the government is “not encouraging more people to go back to work”.

She told her daily briefing: “I would ask Scottish employers to follow government guidance.

“Most will do this and will not urge workers to come back to work prematurely.”

Grant support for charities: full details here

UPDATE 13 May: Self-employed boost

Some relief will be offered across the UK with the early opening of the government scheme from 8am this morning to freelancers and tradesmen.

Self-employed individuals or members of partnerships whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits.

Millions are expected to benefit from the scheme with the payments – to be paid in a single instalment covering three months and capped at £7,500 – expected to land in bank accounts within six working days of each claim.  

Everyone eligible for the SEISS, which is said to be one of the most generous support schemes announced by any government in response to coronavirus, will be able to receive the government grant by 25 May, or within six days of a completed claim.

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