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Chancellor extends furlough scheme to October

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the government’s furlough scheme will be extended until October in response to the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

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The government will continue to pay 80% of people’s wages until October

The government introduced the scheme in March to pay 80% of people’s wages, up to £2,500 a month, while they were on furlough due to the outbreak.

The scheme had been due to run through to the end of June, but will now remain in place until at least October to offer support to those people who will be off work for the foreseeable future.

However, the updated guidance states that employers will be permitted to run with some part-time workers, while the government will no longer compel companies to stop using staff. In addition, the government said from August, it will request companies to help share the cost of the scheme.

So far, around 7.5m people have been opted into the scheme.

“I am extending the scheme because I won't give up on the people who rely on it,” Sunak told Parliament earlier today (May 12th). “We stood behind Britain's workers and businesses as we came into this crisis, and we will stand behind them as we come through the other side.

“Nobody who is on the furlough scheme wants to be on this scheme. People up and down this country believe in the dignity of their work, going to work and providing for their families and it is not their fault they their business has been asked to close or stay at home.”

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday set out the UK’s steps to exit lockdown, though most of the measures announced will only apply to England initially, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set to pursue alternative plans.

The government has faced criticism over the plans, with some parties saying that the updated guidelines are too vague.

We stood behind Britain's workers and businesses as we came into this crisis, and we will stand behind them as we come through the other side

The Prime Minister urged those who cannot work from home to actively speak with their employer about going back to work this week, including companies in the manufacturing sector.

For those employers that do start up business again, they will be faced with a host of measures that are designed to protect staff from spreading coronavirus.

These include employers carrying out a risk assessment before they can reopen, as well as a requirement to consult with workers or trade union representatives on safety measures.

Social distancing must be in place wherever possible and if this is not practical, businesses should consider mitigating measures such as increasing cleaning and hand-washing, or putting screens between people working closely together.

In addition, the government advised that staff do not share equipment where possible – a factor particularly important to those in the sign and print sectors.

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