TORY Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that he will extend the furlough scheme across the UK until the end of March.
Sunak said the scheme will pay up to 80% of a person’s wage up to £2,500 a month. He told the Commons that the government will review the policy in January.
The chancellor said his intention was ‘to give businesses security through the winter’.
‘The security we are providing will protect millions of jobs,’ he added.
He also announced more money for self-employed people.
Support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be increased, with the third grant covering November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.
Labour’s Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds accused him of ignoring objections to the government’s measures ‘until the last possible moment’.
She pointed out that he had previously ‘ridiculed’ a furlough extension as ‘a blunt instrument’.
Unite leader Len McCluskey said: ‘Today’s extension of the job retention scheme until March 2021 is of course welcome but entirely predictable. The government was always going to have to get real because workers simply cannot be forced into further crisis-caused lockdowns without financial support.
‘Thousands of UK jobs have been lost in the past 24 hours alone. Who knows how many of these jobs and the many others that have previously been lost could have been saved, if the prime minister and chancellor had followed the path of France and Germany and announced financial investment and jobs security packages well ahead of further lockdowns.
‘As this recession worsens and millions are pushed to the financial cliff-edge, people need more than short-term sticking plasters reluctantly and retrospectively applied over deepening economic wounds.
‘Workers, families and communities are facing ruin yet the absence of longer-term, strategic support for UK employers and households is making desperate matters worse, and is a gift to our competitors who will recover faster and stronger.
‘We need a government with a plan to protect health, jobs and incomes, to get us through these frightening times and out the other side, and we need it yesterday.’
John Phillips, GMB Acting General Secretary, said: ‘While the extension of furlough to March will provide much needed certainty for many workers, it has been obvious for some time that additional support was needed.
‘The delay in extending the Job Retention Scheme has caused a bonfire of jobs and investment and prevented workers and their employers from planning for the future.
‘The Chancellor has also failed to address the inadequacy and injustice of statutory sick pay. Many workers, often low paid, qualify only for the statutory bare minimum of just £95 a week when they are forced to self-isolate. Unless there is action, those who are doing the right thing are still being punished with poverty sick pay.
‘GMB calls on the government to work more closely with unions over the coming months, and we call on all employers that are planning redundancies to now cancel those proposals in light of this new support.’