Rishi Sunak has extended the UK’s furlough scheme into September as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The Chancellor is set to lay out his plans later today (March 3) at the House of Commons as he details the spring Budget.
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The furlough scheme – also known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which was introduced following the coronavirus outbreak in the UK back in March 2020 and had been due to end next month – will continue to pay 80% of employees’ wages for the hours that they cannot work in the pandemic through to September.
Employers will be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their employees do not work until July, before it increases to 20% in August and September.
Sunak said that the scheme, which has helped protect 11 million jobs in the UK over the past year after businesses were forced to close due to the health crisis, would help people navigate “the challenging months ahead”.
“Our Covid support schemes have been a lifeline to millions, protecting jobs and incomes across the UK,” he said.
“There’s now light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap for reopening, so it’s only right that we continue to help business and individuals through the challenging months ahead – and beyond.”
Support for self-employed workers is also set to be extended in the Budget, with 600,000 more self-employed people set to be able to gain access to government grants as a result of data collected from 2019-20 tax returns.
April will see the introduction of a fourth grant from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – which is worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits up to £7,500 – while Sunak will also detail plans for a fifth grant later today.
The Chancellor has previously faced criticism for failing to sufficiently support self-employed people through the pandemic, particularly those who are newly self-employed and have been unable to benefit from the scheme.
Responding to Sunak’s plans, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson said the changes to support schemes “could have been made months ago”. She also accused Sunak of focusing on “getting his moment in the sun rather than protecting jobs and livelihoods”.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said that the extra months of furlough would offer “some stability in the rocky months ahead” but called for the scheme to be extended until 2022.
A number of beleaguered music venues across the UK could receive a boost from Sunak’s Budget following the news that the Cultural Recovery Fund is expected to receive an extra £300 million in funding.