Last night, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he won't impose a 'cliff edge' to end the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which allows businesses to furlough staff on up to 80% of their wages.
Mr Sunak had previously said that the scheme would be extended until Tuesday 30 June, but he now says that the the government are trying to 'figure out' how to wind it down, ease the lockdown and get people back to work in a 'measured way'. That suggests that it will be wound down gradually and we may know more next week. The government is due to announce its 'road map' on Sunday May 10, to explain how current restrictions will be lifted. Some information has already been leaked - see our blog for information.
The government is under pressure from the TUC and others to relax the scheme rules so that people can return to work on reduced hours and claim their remaining hours via the scheme. It also wants the minimum three week furlough period to be changed so that groups of workers can alternate being in work one week and furloughed the next which, it says, will help businesses maintain social distancing measures and keep staff safe.
The furlough scheme has been very successful. So far, approximately 800,000 employers have used the Coronavirus: Job Retention Scheme to furlough 6.3 million workers at a cost of £8bn.
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The chancellor has already extended the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) scheme once and is under pressure to do so again. Various business groups have warned of mass redundancies unless taxpayer support continues beyond the end of June.