Furlough scheme extended to end of March

The government has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is being extended to the end of March 2021.

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, confirmed that the furlough scheme would continue to guarantee 80% of employee wages up to £2,500 a month for people unable to work during the coronavirus crisis.

Sunak told the House of Commons that the government will review the policy in January, to decide “whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more”.

The scheme, first announced at the beginning of the first UK national lockdown, was due to end on 31 October but has now been extended to cover the new four-week lockdown in England.

The Chancellor said he has had to make “rapid adjustments” to the government’s economic plans as the spread of COVID-19 has accelerated.

He also revealed that support for self-employed workers will double to 80% of average earnings in the previous year, up to a maximum of £7,500.

The government faced criticism over the weekend in Scotland and Wales, where it was argued that it would be unfair for the full support package to be available only when England is in lockdown. Sunak told the House he wants to “reassure” the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that the furlough scheme was developed “by the government of the United kingdom on behalf of all the people in the United Kingdom”.

Around £40bn has been spent so far on the furlough scheme since it was introduced in March.

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