Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the furlough scheme while addressing the House of Commons on March 3 about his Budget. The Government will continue to pay up to 80 percent of furloughed workers’ wages, as Mr Sunak said the move would provide “certainty for millions of jobs and businesses”. Addressing the Commons, Mr Sunak said: “Our package for 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’s right that we enable them to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus makes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support.”
The move did, however, draw criticism from the Opposition Party.
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Anneliese Dodds said Mr Sunak had “waited until the last possible minute to act, leaving businesses in the dark with less than 24 hours before they have to issue redundancy notices”.
Ms Dodds added: “Rishi Sunak’s irresponsible, last-minute decision-making has left the UK with the worst recession of any major economy.”
“We wanted to accommodate even the most cautious view of exiting from restrictions.
“Hopefully that won’t happen as we are making great progress, and thanks to everyone involved in the vaccination drive for making that possible.
“But it is also important to remember that, just because restrictions end, businesses will still need to take time to recover.
“Things will take a bit of time to get back to the way they were, so I think it is important to provide that extra cushion.”
The scheme will take a turn from the summer as businesses will be expected to help contribute to the cost of furloughing their employers if they can prove they’re in a better place, financially.
Explaining the changes to MPs, Mr Sunak said: “As businesses reopen, we will ask them to contribute alongside the taxpayer to the cost of paying their employees.
“Nothing will change until July, when we will ask for a small contribution of just 10 percent and 20 percent in August and September.”
The measures announced by Mr Sunak in the Budget are expected to cost the Treasury £65billion over the course of this year and next.
Other plans include extending the Universal Credit £20 uplift for another six months, extending the Stamp Duty holiday and business rates cut and introducing a new mortgage guarantee, as well as an extension to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).