Furlough scheme extended until March 2021

Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme until March. Photo credit should read: Matt Dunham/PA W

Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme until March. Photo credit should read: Matt Dunham/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Rishi Sunak has today announced that the furlough scheme has been extended until March of 2021.

When the second lockdown was announced it was previously thought that it would only cover the span of a month to December 2. In a major U-turn by the government, the chancellor said the move is needed because of the economic situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Sunak said the government’s highest priority remains “to protect jobs and livelihoods”

The chancellor said: “We can announce today that the furlough scheme will not be extended for one month, it will be extended until the end of March.

“The government will continue to help pay people’s wages up to 80pc of the normal amount.

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“All employers will have to pay for hours not worked is the cost of employer NICs and pension contributions.

“We will review the policy in January to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more.”

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The news will come as a welcome relief to business squeezed by the pandemic.

However the long term future of the country’s employment rate remains unknown. “I have heard the phrase ‘Off the edge of history’ being used to describe this pandemic and that is exactly what I think is happening here. None of our forecasts or plans will be able to reflect what is happening at the moment because there was no way to predict this,” said Harry Harris, chief commercial officer for Swarm Apprenticeships.

The community interest company specialises in training focussing on apprenticeships, qualifications and short courses in both Norfolk and Suffolk as well as further afield. He said: “I truly believe the government is doing the best it can given the situation. But what I would say is that now is the time for more autonomy when it comes to tackling unemployment. “The ‘big government’ policies like furlough and the kickstart scheme are fantastic but they may not necessarily reflect the issues we’re seeing on the ground. It is the businesses, the policy makers and the training providers who know where skills are needed and how best to plug those gaps, so it is a question of giving the resource to the community groups and businesses so they can look at tackling the problem on a more local level.”

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