Rishi Sunak announces furlough replacement ‘Jobs Support Scheme’ to top up wages through winter of coronavirus misery

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RISHI Sunak today announced his new six-month furlough replacement scheme to save thousands of jobs – with the Government paying a chunk of lost wages.

The Chancellor unveiled his Winter Economy Plan to help the nation through a tricky few months ahead – with plans to extend state support until next May.

The Chancellor is revealing his new furlough scheme today

He’s ditched this year’s Budget over the ongoing situation over coronavirus

Boris Johnson and the Chancellor have stressed the furlough scheme can’t continue in its current form forever – where 80 per cent of people’s wages are paid by the Government up to a cap of £2,500 a month.

Millions of workers are still on part-time ‘flexible furlough’ and getting help through the scheme, which ends at the end of October.

As HOAR revealed today, businesses will be able to get a large chunk of help to pay people’s wages through what is being called the “jobs support scheme”.

Employees must work at least a third of their normal hours, and the Government and the employer will top up their wages.

The Government will pay just under a third (22 per cent) and the employers will have to pay the other third to qualify.

The Government’s chunk of the support will be capped at £697.92 per month, and it means workers who are currently working a third of their normal hours will get up to 77 per cent of their normal wages.

The support will be targeted to those who need it most – smaller and medium sized firms – and will be a particular boost to those working in the beleaguered hospitality industry, which has been hard-hit by covid-19.

It will be open to employers across the UK – even if they haven’t used the old furlough scheme before. It will start on November 1.

Firms can still claim the existing job retention bonus in the new year if they keep on staff.

Mr Sunak said today: “The Government stands with the British people and British business.

“It is now clear at the PM and our scientific advisers have said for at least the next six months, the virus and restrictions are going to be a fact of our lives.

“Our economy is now likely to undergo a more permanent adjustment, the sources of our economic growth and the kinds of jobs we create will adapt and evolve to the new normal. Our plan needs to adapt and evolve.”

The Chancellor also announced:

  • A VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism industry will continue March next year – meaning cheaper meals out will continue
  • The coronavirus emergency loans for businesses would be extended until the end of the year – and loans can be repaid over ten years in a new ‘Pay as you Grow’ scheme
  • Businesses who are struggling to pay back their loans can make interest-only payments
  • Self-employment grants will be extended
  • Firms can spread their VAT bill over 11 smaller payments to make it easier for them to cough up the cash owed – and no interest
  • People making self-assessment claims can extend their tax bills for another year

Labour claimed the news was a “u-turn” for the Treasury on extending the current furlough scheme – which they have repeatedly called for.

The CBI welcomed the news and said it would save “thousands of jobs”.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “It is right to target help on jobs with a future, but can only be part-time while demand remains flat.

“This is how skills and jobs can be preserved to enable a fast recovery.”

And Mike Cherry from the Federation of Small Businesses said it would help the UK’s smaller firms with an “incredibly difficult winter”.

 He added: “We welcome that the Chancellor is ensuring that decisions to protect public health are informed by the need to protect the economy, people’s jobs and prospects for young people in our schools and workplaces.”

The latest bailout plan comes as confirmed new coronavirus cases soared above 6,000 yesterday— the highest daily number since May 1.

Boris and Rishi have promised “creative” schemes to make sure businesses are still supported throughout the pandemic.

There is already some targeted help for businesses in lockdown areas – who can claim grants to help keep them going.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes which have been ordered to shut down will be able to claim for extra cash as a “safety net” to help them cope through local lockdowns.

MORE LOCKDOWN RULES

The statement for extra economic help for the nation comes after Boris revealed his new lockdown measures this week – designed to prevent another full shutdown like in March.

Pubs and restaurants will have to shut at 10pm and boot customers out. People have been told to work from home again if they can.

But the PM has said a full lockdown could be on the cards if these measures don’t stop the spread.

One business owner – who is operating in a lockdown area in the North East – told Radio 4 today that his profits were down nearly 50 per cent on the week before after he was told he had to implement a 10pm curfew.

Boris visiting a police station in Northamptonshire today

And Sir John Timpson, chair of Timpsons stores, said the Chancellor should consider targeted support for other businesses that have “really been hung out to dry” such as the night time economy or wedding suppliers.

Businesses such as nightclubs still have yet to reopen due to the ongoing pandemic – and look unlikely to be allowed to do so as restrictions are set to remain in place for another six months.

This morning Cineworld warned it may need to raise more money in the event of more coronavirus restrictions – and posted a £1.3billion loss for the six months to June.

Their branches will have to shut at 10pm from tonight, hurting sales further – though people will be able to stay until the end of their film if it starts before the cut off.