The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has extended the scheme already so it runs up until the end of April 2021. Mr Sunak said the move would provide “certainty for millions of jobs and businesses”. Announcing the measures to the House of Commons, the Chancellor said: “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.”
He added: “We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable them to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support.”
But now things have changed. Another lockdown has been implemented in England, and with no clear end date for the shutdown, millions have been left in the lurch about what the future holds for them financially.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Director of legal services at employment law and HR support firm Ellis Whittam, James Tamm said it could make sense for the Government to extend the scheme given the ongoing situation.
Mr Tamm said: “I would expect furlough to be maintained beyond the end of April if we are still in lockdown after that point.
As long as the Government sticks to its plan of offering vaccination slots to 15million in the top priority groups – including all over 80s – by February 15, the country should see lockdown end soon.
Given the way things have been going in this pandemic and the numerous failed pledges by the Government, however, that remains to be seen.
In addition, lots of scepticism and fear exists around the vaccine which will undoubtedly affect how many people are immunised against Covid, subsequently affecting economy and employment.
Beyond HR Managing Director Neil McLeese agrees the furlough extension is contingent on how well the vaccine programme plays out.
Mr McLeese told Express.co.uk: “Based on the Prime Minister’s timetable regarding vaccination, we think the furlough scheme is unlikely to be extended and would hope that businesses can be getting back to some sort of normality by the end of April.
“That said, the Government has clearly been trying to protect jobs and the economy since the start of the pandemic.
“I suspect that should the vaccination programme fail to deliver on time, the Chancellor may look to announce an extension at the beginning of March to try and give employers and employees some sense of reassurance going into the second quarter of the year.”
The Chancellor is due to deliver his Budget in early March, in which the future of furlough will undoubtedly be confirmed.