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The government is considering allowing furloughed staff to return to work part time as part of a gradual ‘winding down’ of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Under plans expected to be announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak tomorrow (12 May), the scheme will be relaxed to allow employers to bring furloughed staff back to work gradually, with the government topping up some of their wages for the hours they are not working.
It is also expected to remove the requirement for an employee to be furloughed for a minimum of three consecutive weeks, according to reports.
About 6 million workers have been furloughed, costing the state around £8bn.
The government has faced growing calls for more flexibility to be introduced to the scheme, which is set to run until the end of June, as businesses consider how their organisations will survive in the long term.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “For small employers, there should be a way of partially furloughing staff, so that a small business which is only able to get up and running again steadily can bring back workers some of the time, but retain them via the job retention scheme the rest of the time. We look forward to seeing more detail tomorrow on workplace guidance.”
Business groups have also called for the scheme to be extended until at least September, but last week it was reported that the government would begin winding it down from July.
Sunak is also expected this week to announce longer-term plans to support sectors severely impacted by the coronavirus, including aviation and hospitality.
A spokesperson for the Treasury told the Times: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is an absolutely crucial element of our financial support in protecting jobs and businesses through this crisis and has already supported millions of workers across the UK.
“Future decisions around the scheme will take into account the wider context of any lockdown extension, as well as the public health response, so that people and businesses can get back to work when it is safe to do so.”
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