Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak has announced that the UK government and firms have agreed to top up workers' wages covering up to two-thirds of their hours for the next six months.
Labelled the 'Jobs Support Scheme', the initiative will help combat the potential job losses anticipated when the current furlough scheme ends on October 31. Sunak has also unveiled a "winter economy plan" after the government introduced new restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
There are currently three million workers—12% of the UK's workforce—on partial or full furlough leave, according to the Office for National Statistics, and employees will have to work for at least a third of their normal hours for businesses to take advantage of the scheme, which begins on November 1.
Speaking to the House of Commons today, Sunak said that the UK "must endure and live with the uncertainty of the moment' and "lean our new limits", while also stating "lives can no longer be put on hold."
He added: "To do that, I am announcing today the new Jobs Support Scheme. The government will directly support the wages of people in work, giving businesses who face depressed demand the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours rather than making them redundant."
The Chancellor's plans are part of a multi-billion pound package of support, which includes a new wage subsidy "modelled on the German scheme". Businesses that have already borrowed money through the government's loan scheme will also be given more time to repay the money, with the 20% to 5% VAT cut for hospitality and tourism companies extended until March, which was due to expire on January 12 next year.