Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have done what they can to keep the economy afloat over the last year or so, with the introduction of the furlough scheme and SEISS among other measures but the payments from them are set to end by the Spring. Today, the Prime Minister was questioned on what may lie beyond April and Boris was optimistic albeit a tad vague in his response.
Boris was asked: “Prime Minister, you mentioned businesses wanting to avoid the cycle of lockdown and unlocking again.
“But the furlough programme is due to come to an end at the end of April.
“Can you at least now give some reassurance that you will continue furlough, or consider continuing furlough after that point if restrictions are still in place?”
As with many elements of life at the moment, the answer to this will likely depend on coronavirus data.
Originally, the furlough scheme was meant to be wound down as the end of 2020 approached but in mid-December, the Chancellor confirmed it would be extended to the end of April 2021.
The Government will continue to contribute 80 percent towards wages up until that point and Rishi Sunak may address the scheme in his upcoming March budget.
Furlough payments have been crucial to millions, with the Government confirming around 10 million jobs have been protected by the scheme.
As such, the removal of it will likely have dramatic impacts for employees and employers alike.
Rishi welcomed the extension with the following comments: “Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.
“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable businesses to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes.
“Which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support, as well as implementing our Plan for Jobs.”
Currently, employers are only required to pay wages, National Insurance Contributions (NICS) and pensions for hours worked; and NICS and pensions for hours not worked.
Business loan schemes were also extended, with payments from these also supporting more than one million businesses through the crisis.
Companies have until the end of March to access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
Originally, these were set to close by the end of January and Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, welcomed the Government’s efforts: “While our loan schemes have provided a vital lifeline to millions of firms across the country, we know that business owners need additional certainty as we head into the New Year.
“Extending government-backed loan schemes will give companies right across the UK the finance they need to support, protect and create jobs as we build back better from the pandemic.”