Furlough Rises To 15% High

British Staff On Furlough Rises To 15% High

UNITED KINGDOM – The percentage of employees on furlough across Britain in early-November rose to its highest level since late-June after the government implemented an interim 4-week lockdown in England in response to a 2nd wave of COVID-19 infections, reported Reuters on Thursday morning (26 November, SGT).

According to official data published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday, companies revealed that 15 percent of their workers were on furlough from 2 to 15 November. This is higher than the 9 percent recorded during the prior survey during October’s 2nd half.

Since 5 November, authorities in Britain introduced a 4-week temporary lockdown. This has shuttered bars, taverns, restaurants, non-essential retailers and many other businesses.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the government had originally planned to scrap the furlough scheme by end-October. But the 2nd wave of virus outbreaks have compelled the authorities to prolong it until end-March 2021.

The furlough programme, known officially as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allows workers to be paid 80 percent of their present income for hours not worked.

At its peak in May, the scheme helped 8.9 million workers, and it’s considered the most expensive component of the COVID economic support programme in Britain as the government has already spent £43 billion (US$57 billion) on the scheme so far.

On Wednesday (25 November), the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) projected that the beneficiaries of the furlough scheme will increase to 21 percent of the workforce because of lockdowns in England and other areas of the UK. By early-2021, it is forecasted to drop to 12 percent of the workforce as the curbs are relaxed.

If the government did not implement the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, unemployment in Britain would sharply rise, surpassing the 7.5 percent unemployment rate projected for next year, added OBR.

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