The number of people furloughed by their employer has risen for the tenth straight week as the cut-off for the government’s job retention scheme looms.
New figures from the Treasury show 9.3 million people had been placed on furlough as of 28 June — just two days before the cut-off date for adding staff to the job retention scheme.
Some 100,000 additional people have been added to the scheme over the last week, even as more and more of the economy has begun to reopen.
1.1 million employers have now used the programme, which sees the state pay 80% of furloughed staffs’ wages up to a maximum £2,500 ($3,067) per month. The programme has cost the government £25bn since it launched in April.
The job retention scheme is set to run until the end of October but new people cannot be added to the scheme from Tuesday. Employers will also be gradually asked to contribute to the cost of the scheme from August.
Experts fear the end of the job retention scheme could herald a surge in redundancies as many of the 9.3 million people on furlough find they don’t have a job to return to. Figures published on Tuesday show the UK economy suffered its worst quarter since 1979 at the start of 2020 — before the full effects of the COVID-19 lockdown had been felt.
The Labour party and former Labour chancellor Lord Alistair Darling have both warned that the UK could face levels of unemployment not seen since the 1980s unless more is done to protect jobs. Private sector economists forecast UK unemployment could surge to 7.9% this year, up from just 3.9% in February.
A recent survey of furloughed workers by Bank of America found more than a third expect to either lose their jobs or face a pay cut in the coming months.
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to deliver an economic update next week and is expected to outline measures to support jobs and skills training.