Britain’s government launched scaled-back job support for workers hit by the resurgent pandemic, but warned not everyone could be helped during an economic meltdown that is threatening millions of jobs.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also unveiled plans to extend loan repayments for businesses and delay ending a tax cut for the hospitality sector which has been drastically hit by coronavirus restrictions. Despite the state support, unemployment looks set to surge by the end of the year, with major employers shedding jobs rapidly.
“I cannot save every business, I cannot save every job,” Mr Sunak told parliament as he announced his Winter Economy Plan, which replaced a planned budget statement and set out a six-month replacement for the jobs furlough scheme. “As the economy reopens it is fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the furlough.”
The measures will be closely watched here as Finance Ministerprepares the 2021 budget next month. At the heart of the new measures is a replacement for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which supported 8.9 million private-sector jobs at its peak in May and ends next month - sooner than its equivalents in other countries.
Under the new programme,government support will only be available to workers whose employers keep them on at least a third of their normal hours. If employers agree to pay staff a third of their salary for unworked hours, the government will contribute another third, up to £698 (€760) a month. The Confederation of British Industry, which had urged the government to adopt such a scheme, said it would help save hundreds of thousands of jobs.
But millions of people have benefited from furlough support, and Paul Johnson, director of Britain's Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the new programme was significantly less generous. “It is clear that many jobs will be lost over the coming months,” he said.