Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a further extension to the existing furlough scheme when he delivers his budget. The scheme was set to finish at the end of April, but it will now be extended until the end of September. This will come as good news for the millions worried about the coming months and their financial security.
In addition to extending the furlough scheme, the chancellor will also extend the current scheme for the self-employed. This means that hundreds of thousands of self-employed who did previously not qualify for help may now find themselves eligible for self-employment grants and financial support.
Extension will help millions of workers
According to Mr Sunak, the furlough scheme's extension will help millions of workers through the tough months ahead. The UK is doing very well with the Covid vaccination rollout, and both death and infection rates have been decreasing rapidly. However, it will still take time to open up the economy, and many people have been worried about their jobs and overall finances.
The Chancellor said, "Our Covid support schemes have been a lifeline to millions, protecting jobs and incomes across the UK. There's now light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap for reopening, so it's only right that we continue to help business and individuals through the challenging months ahead - and beyond."
Since the scheme began in March 2020, more than 11 million jobs have been protected. While it has cost billions to maintain, it has helped huge numbers of people who would otherwise have lost their jobs and incomes altogether. Under the current scheme, workers receive 80% of their regular income, with employers having the option to top up to 100%.
Following the scheme's extension, employers will have to make a 10% contribution to the hours that each employee is unable to work in July. This contribution will then go up to 20% in August and September, after which the scheme is set to come to an end.
In his statement to the Commons, Mr Sunak will provide full details of the plan. He will also outline a 3-point map designed to provide financial assistance to people over the coming months. He will also speak more about his plans to rebuild the economy and address the huge hole that has been made in the public purse as a result of the pandemic.
Labour: Extension announcement comes too late
While many will undoubtedly be relieved to hear about the furlough scheme's extension, the Labour Party claims that the decision to extend should have been made months ago.
Some opposition MPs say that leaving it until now to announce the extension of furlough has resulted in weeks or months of unnecessary worry for many people across the UK.