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Furlough numbers climb sharply in January to 4.7 million

Furlough numbers rose by 700,000 in January after tighter lockdown restrictions were imposed.

Treasury figures show a total of 4.7 million people were on the government scheme at the end of the month.

The hospitality sector, one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, furloughed 1.15 million people in January – an increase of 3%.

But the middle of February a total of £53.8bn had been claimed since the furlough scheme began last year.

The furlough data means that 16% of eligible workers were on the support scheme at the end of January.

In total, 11.2 million employees across the UK have been given furlough cash. The scheme pays up to 80% of salaries to those who cannot work because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Charlie McCurdy, researcher at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Furlough has once again played a crucial role in protecting incomes and keeping a lid on rising unemployment.

“But with almost five million workers still on furlough in the most recent data, our biggest labour market challenges may be ahead of, rather than behind, us.”

Separately, businesses took out a further £2.2bn of government-backed loans in the last month, according to Treasury figures.

The coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) was most popular, with a further £1.2bn of loans awarded.

In total, nearly £73bn has been lent under the scheme and its two sister schemes – the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme and the bounce back loan scheme.

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Gender split

The furlough figures show that while 1.5 million workers using the scheme are employed by big companies, it is staff at small firms with between two and four employees who are most likely to be furloughed.

These companies filed claims for more than 620,000 staff, or 36% of those eligible to be furloughed. Among larger businesses with more than 250 employees, only 9% of eligible staff were furloughed – the lowest proportion.

On average, women are more likely than men to be furloughed, however in London and Northern Ireland the furlough rate among eligible male employees is higher than among women.

Who is being furloughed?

The furlough statistics are vital to assess what is happening with the economy, and for how much longer the government’s rescue support will be required.

The answers from today’s statistics show that just under five million workers were on furlough in January during the second wave national lockdown.

It is though less than the nine million during the first national lockdown, giving some clues as to how the economy has been able to adapt better to these conditions.

By sector, retail and hospitality saw the biggest rises on the end of last year. About 68% of workers in the restaurant sector are currently furloughed. Retail furloughs were 938,500 at end of January, well up on December, but about half the level of the peak last April.

On the other hand, manufacturing and construction seems to have largely continued, and numbers furloughed are well down on the first wave.

The Centre for Cities dug into the numbers by location. The top 10 areas for furlough include those most exposed to tourism and aviation – Crawley, Blackpool, Brighton, Slough, all seeing over 1-in-6 workers on furlough. Those least reliant on the scheme include Barnsley, Doncaster and Hull at around 1-in-9 workers.

More women than men have been furloughed, reflecting the sectors most hit by pandemic lockdowns. By age group it is 25-34-year olds most hit, with over one million again now furloughed.

All of this underpins why rescue support will be extended at the Budget next week. But it also suggests that the real problems are concentrated by sector and by age.

Source: BBC

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ONS finds 2m people still on furlough days before scheme ends

Almost one in 13 UK workers, about 2 million people, are still on furlough just days before the government job retention scheme comes to an end, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The regular ONS update on the economy during the coronavirus pandemic found 7.5% of the UK workforce was still relying on wage support from the government between 5 and 18 October.

The proportion on furlough was a quarter of that at the start of June, when 29.5% of workers had some of their wages paid by the government.

At its peak more than 9 million people’s wages were sustained by the scheme, which initially covered 80% of a worker’s wages. The job retention scheme (JRS) ends on Saturday, closing the first phase of the government’s economic response to Covid-19.

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The JRC is being replaced by the less generous job support scheme (JSS), which will cover up to two-thirds of an employee’s salary if they work 20% of their usual hours. However, Labour has expressed concerns that the replacement scheme does not do enough for workers in industries that remain severely affected by local lockdowns, such as the cinema sector, and that as a consequence unemployment will rise sharply in the run-up to Christmas.

Economists and trade unions have issued warnings that the new support measures announced by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will not be sufficient to protect jobs or save businesses from collapse, as the rates of Covid-19 infections increase and further local lockdowns are imposed.

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Nottinghamshire will be the latest area to enter tier 3 restrictions on Friday, and West Yorkshire is expected to follow within days. This will leave more than 11 million people in England under the tightest level of restrictions while the whole of Wales begins the second of a two-week “fire break” lockdown.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said the end of the furlough scheme would result in more redundancies, at a time when the number of coronavirus cases are rising across the country.

“No one should lose their job or be pushed into hardship by the tightening Covid restrictions, but from Saturday the amount of financial support available to workers will fall just as the public health crisis is getting worse. This will result in layoffs without further action from government,” O’Grady said.

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that Britain faced a difficult winter, with growing numbers of job losses and a further downturn in economic growth.

The IMF recommended the government increased spending on social protection to limit the economic impact of the second wave of the pandemic.

By Joanna Partridge

Source: The Guardian

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Furloughed workers should find out this week if they’ll face redundancy when scheme ends in October

MILLIONS of furloughed workers should find out this week if they will lose their job when the coronavirus job retention scheme comes to an end next month.

Many businesses planning to cut jobs must alert staff of the risk of redundancy by Wednesday this week if they intend on dismissing staff as soon as the furlough scheme ends in October.

A consultation period must start at least 45 days before the first job loss when more than 100 staff are made redundant.

The coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) – the government-backed initiative which pays part of the wages of furloughed staff – ends on Saturday 31 October.

Wednesday 16 September marks 45 days before this.

Companies can still make staff redundant after this date, but they will have to pay full wages from 1 November onward without furlough scheme support.

Citizens Advice is reminding people to check their redundancy rights, including that the 45 day rule for consultation is followed.

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Tracey Moss, senior employment expert at Citizens Advice, said: “If you’re at risk of redundancy, it’s important to know you do have rights to help protect you from unfair dismissal and to ensure you’re paid what you’re owed.

“It’s completely understandable that you may find the rules and procedures overwhelming, but you don’t have to face redundancy alone. If you’re struggling, contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.”

If your employer fails to consult properly, including starting late or not consulting at all, you could make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Where there are redundancies of between 20 and 99 staff, the redundancy consultation must start at least 30 days before the dismissals.

In this case, employers will have to notify staff by 1 October if they intend to make them redundant as soon as the furlough scheme ends.

For redundancies of less than 20, there are no rules for the length of the consultation and there is no maximum length for redundancy consultation.

A wave of job cuts have already taken place, with the travel, retail and hospitality industries among the hardest hit so far.

London City airport, Pret A Manger and Marks and Spencer are among those to have announced redundancy plans.

LinkedIn careers expert Charlotte Davies said: “Losing your job can be a really destabilising experience, especially in this challenging economic climate.

“LinkedIn data shows that there are currently three times as many people applying for every role compared to last year.

“But while the prospect of landing a new role in the current jobs market may seem daunting, the good news is there are still jobs out there.

She recommends looking at and improving your skills.

She said: “Reflect on your transferable skills and consider if there are any gaps in your skillset that you could fill with an online learning course.

“LinkedIn Learning is currently offering nearly 1,000 hours of free courses to help people reskill for in-demand digital roles.

And don’t forget to take advantage of your network of people you know.

She said: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to your online networks for advice and opportunities.

“We’ve seen so many conversations happening on LinkedIn over the past few months from members who have been made redundant or furloughed, and then found new positions through their online community.”

Fresh calls have been made for the furlough scheme to be extended over fears the UK could be hit with a “second wave” of redundancies.

Around half a million people could lose their jobs this autumn, a shocking new study has predicted.

Martin Lewis has urged furloughed workers to check if they’re still being paid 80% of their salary after a change in how the scheme works.

By Lynsey Barber

Source: The Sun