Chancellor Rishi Sunak has stressed he will do “whatever it takes” to support businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, and last year Mr Sunak extended the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until April 2021. With the lockdown expected to last for several more months in England, many businesses are hopeful the Government’s furlough scheme will continue to support them past April.
Will furlough be extended?
The Government has not yet confirmed whether the furlough scheme will be extended, but if the Government does decide to extend the scheme, reports suggest the Chancellor will announce changes in the Budget statement on March 3.
Many employment experts are of the opinion Government support for businesses could continue past April 2021.
Charlotte Farrell, associate solicitor in the employment team at Paris Smith, told Express.co.uk the Government will “almost certainly” extend the furlough scheme.
Ms Farrell said: “Whilst the Government is imposing legal limits on the actions of businesses and individuals through lockdowns, or a strict tier system, it seems very unlikely that they will be able to justify ending the furlough scheme in April 2021 as originally planned.
“It seems unlikely they will be able to withdraw support completely and leave businesses to get on with it themselves.
“We saw a big flurry of redundancies in July to October 2020 as businesses thought the scheme was ending, and they geared up to having to survive without Government support.
“However, once the first extension to the scheme was announced these significantly reduced, and many businesses have been treading water since then.
“Both of these require a considerable drop in cases of Covid-19.
“Given the way in which vaccinations will be rolled out, a significant proportion of the UK’s workforce and consumers will not be vaccinated until the Summer.
“It will therefore be necessary to extend furlough support in line with this continued process, whether through an approach that targets specific industries or some other variation on the CJRS, such as tapering levels of grants.”
As vaccination rollout is expected to continue for several months, lockdown measures are also expected to continue for some time.
Diane Lightfoot, CEO at the Business Disability Forum, told Express.co.uk: “The Government must extend the furlough scheme beyond April to protect the incomes of all those people who will not have had the vaccine by that point, and do not feel safe returning to their usual place of work.
“There is still much confusion about which groups of disabled people are being prioritised in the vaccine rollout.
“This includes people who are shielding or are in higher risk groups, for example, who are still waiting for confirmation of when they will receive their first and second dose of the vaccine.
“The scheme also needs to be extended to incentivise non-essential businesses to re-open safely. Without the extension, businesses may reopen prematurely, putting pressure on staff to return to work before they feel safe to do so.”