Following last night’s announcement that the UK lockdown would continue for at least another three weeks, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has confirmed that the government’s furlough scheme will be extended by one month. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which is helping with job retention amid the coronavirus outbreak, will now be open until the end of June – providing businesses with the certainty they need.
By extending the CJRS, firms across the UK will continue to be able to protect millions of jobs, with the scheme covering 80 per cent of workers’ wages up to £2,500 per month. The Job Retention Scheme was also widened on Thursday to include anyone who started a new job and had been paid by 19 March, bringing in thousands of workers who previously may not have qualified for the scheme.
In these uncertain and difficult times, this clarity will likely come as comforting news for a number of employers and employees in the UK.
Rishi Sunak said: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to support jobs and businesses through this period of uncertainty, including the UK-wide Job Retention Scheme. With the extension of the coronavirus lockdown measures yesterday, it is the right decision to extend the furlough scheme for a month to the end of June to provide clarity.
“It is vital for people’s livelihoods that the UK economy gets up and running again when it is safe to do so, and I will continue to review the scheme so it is supporting our recovery.”
And, as would be expected during these unprecedented times, with Britons forced to stay at home and non-essential stores closed, data illustrates that UK retail sales fell at their fastest rate on record last month. Total sales were down 4.3 per cent in March versus the same month a year earlier, the sharpest decline since records began in 1995, according to KPMG and the British Retail Consortium. Furthermore, data from Barclaycard has revealed that consumer spending fell six per cent between 22 February and 27 March.
Future decisions on the scheme will take into account further developments on the wider measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus, as well as the responsible management of the public finances.