Rishi Sunak will be delivering the next budget on March 3, and while the Government has so far remained tight lipped on what will be revealed, many expect the Chancellor to extend coronavirus spending into the spring. This could cover Universal Credit payments and SEISS but the Chancellor has been called on to specifically extend the furlough scheme, in what has been argued will be beneficial to both businesses and workers alike.
Ed Molyneux, the CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, expanded on this: “Rishi Sunak has been warned by influential business groups and the trade union movement that Britain is at risk of plunging into mass unemployment if the furlough scheme is not extended.
“This is a matter of utmost urgency and my concern is specifically with SMEs across the country who are in dire need of the support.
“Unlike their larger business counterparts, small businesses are heavily dependent on month-to-month income, and without it many will be unable to stay afloat.
“Freelancers, small businesses and the self-employed are vitally important for the economy – they form its backbone, with SMEs making up 99 percent of all UK businesses.
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“Ultimately, extending furlough can help to keep trained and loyal employees on the books for when small businesses are ready to scale up again – allowing them to do this quickly and without the admin of finding someone new.
“Extending the furlough scheme will mean workers are able to continue living in the knowledge that there is a job on the other side of what, for many, has been an incredibly difficult time. This will be a major confidence boost not just from a career perspective, but on their wider lives and wellbeing.
“From a mental health perspective – nothing is worse than losing your job, especially one you are perfectly skilled and competent in. Many talented and very skilled workers face the risk of a massive set-back if this scheme is not extended. As well as the monetary perspective – the grind of starting a job hunt from scratch is daunting and difficult at a time when jobs are already short. Extending the scheme will relieve anxiety, and provide skilled workers with boosted confidence in the knowledge they are valued by their employer and there is a job for them on the flipside.
“Small businesses like these that are able to quickly get up and running when the dust settles will benefit the economy in the long run.”
In mid-December, the Chancellor extended the furlough scheme, confirming it would continue to cover 80 percent of wages.
Thus far, the Job Retention Scheme has been utilised for around 10 million jobs and Rishi acknowledged it’s importance when the extension was announced: “Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.
“Can you at least now give some reassurance that you will continue furlough, or consider continuing furlough after that point if restrictions are still in place?”
Boris provided a relatively uplifting response: “We’ll do whatever it takes to support the people of this country throughout the pandemic, support jobs, support livelihoods as we have done throughout.
“But you know, obviously the faster we can roll out the vaccine the faster we can get on with giving businesses what they really want which is certainty about being able to resume something like life and business as usual.
“Getting there depends, as I think has been a pretty consistent message, on our ability not just to roll out the vaccine but also to make sure we work together to get the infection rate down, and that means obeying the rules. Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
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