The furlough scheme is set to end on 30th September. At its peak, it provided essential wage support for over 11 million UK workers.
Unite, which played a central role in negotiating the scheme, says that in July around two million workers were still on furlough. This was more than anticipated and underlines that the economy is yet to recover from the crisis.
Furloughed workers are currently receiving 80 per cent of their wages, with 60 per cent paid by the government and 20 per cent from their employer. When this support ends in September, those still unable to return to work will be forced onto Universal Credit.
The government also plans to cut Universal Credit by £20 per week – £1,040 per year – on 30 September, despite warnings from Unite, charities and MPs that this will deepen child and family poverty.
Unite is calling on the government to think again, to adapt furlough to protect jobs and to retrain workers, including using it to build the skills urgently needed to address the climate crisis and the skills shortage.
Assistant General Secretary of Unite, Steve Turner said:
Far greater thought must be given to adapting the scheme to ensure that we use it to up-skill and retrain workers as we adapt and transition our industries to meet the climate crisis. It should also be used to support short time working arrangements until demand returns and assists workers to move into sectors where there are vacancies.
Furlough could also be used to help address the skills crisis we face across the economy, from engineers and plumbers to lorry drivers and digital workers.
This scheme was a huge step forward for this country and put us on a par with other advanced economies.
Ministers must put the country first – don’t dump furlough, adapt it to avoid an incomes crisis and to work in the national interest as we repair from Covid.