The furlough scheme, which was introduced by the Government to help millions of people through the coronavirus pandemic, officially comes to an end today (Thursday).
Around £70billion has been spent on supporting around 11.6million employees since the scheme was introduced in March 2020. Under the much-welcomed scheme, the public purse helped pay the wages of those temporarily unable to work due to lockdowns or their employer’s inability to afford the wage bill, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month per employee.
The scheme initially paid a healthy 80% of the employee’s usual wage, but this was reduced over the summer with the Government paying 60% and employers 40%.
It’s estimated that up to around 1million people across the UK are still on furlough, with uncertainty as to what the end of the scheme means for them. It may mean those workers go back to work on a full-time or part-time basis, but equally, it could mean a surge in benefit claimants as employers make the tough decision to let people go. Older workers are said to be ‘at-risk’ as they tend to have a higher wage or salary.
There is no shortage of jobs in the UK though with over 1million vacancies nationwide. This includes within industries such as hospitality and transport, with companies desperate for chefs, waiters and delivery drivers. However, for younger people, it is thought that the number of apprenticeships available will start to decrease as extra incentives for hiring apprentices reduce.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said:
“I am immensely proud of the furlough scheme, and even more proud of UK workers and businesses whose resolve has seen us through an immensely difficult time.
“With the recovery well underway, and more than one million job vacancies, now is the right time for the scheme to draw to a close.
“But that in no way means the end of our support. Our Plan for Jobs is helping people into work and making sure they have the skills needed for the jobs of the future.”
Also ending today is the extra £20-a-week Universial Credit bonus.