Business and union chiefs are demanding more UK government support for firms and workers as the furlough scheme is brought to an end.
The furlough scheme of wage subsidies closes on 31 October. UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has caved into pressure to introduce a replacement job support scheme, make it more generous and extend it to areas hit hard by lockdown restrictions.
But the finance minister still faces pressure to extend support amid tightening local COVID-19 restrictions across the country, fading hopes of economic recovery and business fears of another strict nationwide lockdown.
Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said the furlough scheme had been a “resounding success” in stopping job losses, but warned 30% of employers were now planning redundancies.
“If we see tougher restrictions, we are asking the government to dial up the job support scheme even further to provide more support for the small businesses that are not legally required to close but are facing a collapse in consumer demand,” he said.
He also called for longstanding gaps in support to be filled, urging more support for company directors, newly self-employed workers and struggling sectors like events, culture, the arts and tourism. Such industries have had a “torrid seven months,” he said.
WATCH: What is the job support scheme and how has it changed?
Other proposals include cutting employers’ national insurance bills, and a new ‘Kickstart startup’ scheme with higher subsidies to help individuals to launch firms.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is also demanding wage subsidies under the new job support scheme be as high for employees as the furlough scheme it replaces.
It backed calls for more help for the self-employed, hard-hit sectors like aviation, retail, hospitality and the arts, and higher sick pay for those self-isolating.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Stopping the devastation of mass unemployment must be the government’s top priority.
“But from this weekend, the financial support for workers and businesses will fall, despite the public health crisis getting worse. And that will mean employers will lay people off.”