The Chancellor today threw millions of workers an economic lifeline by confirming an extension to the UK scheme that pays most of their wages while on leave because of coronavirus.
Rishi Sunak said the scheme will be extended to October, meaning that employees will continue to receive 80% of their monthly wages up to £2,500.
But he said the government will ask companies to “start sharing” the cost of the scheme from August.
Over a quarter of all workers – a total of 7.5 million people – are now covered by the scheme.
The Chancellor said that from August, the scheme would continue for all sectors and regions of the country but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work.
It means that employers currently using the scheme will then be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time.
Sunak said: “I’m extending the scheme because I won’t give up on the people who rely on it.
“Our message today is simple: we stood behind Britain’s workers and businesses as we came into this crisis, and we will stand behind them as we come through it.”
The Chancellor also rejected suggestions some people might get “addicted” to furlough if it was extended.
He said: “Nobody who is on the furlough scheme wants to be on this scheme.
“People up and down this country believe in the dignity of their work, going to work, providing for their families. It’s not their fault their business has been asked to close or asked to stay at home.”
Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said she had only learned of the changes “in the last few seconds” and would examine them “very, very carefully”.
But she added that it was “critically important” that workers who had to continue on furlough “are not penalised for that choice”.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the extension “will be a big relief for millions”.