Brits can't stay on furlough 'indefinitely' and the nation must get back to work, Environment Sec warns

BRITS can't be on the furlough scheme "indefinitely" and must get back to work, the Environment Secretary warned today.

George Eustice said this morning that people need to find a way to get back in the office in a safe way.

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It comes as the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil new changes to the Government's support scheme today.

He is set to ask employers to pay a chunk of their staff's wage bills.

Asked on Sky News this morning whether there will be continued support for the self-employed, Mr Eustice said: "Well obviously it is nearly a month ago now that we said we wanted to reopen those bits of the economy that couldn't work from home, so we've been encouraging the construction industry for instance to get back to work.

"A lot of those self-employed professions such as plumbers, electricians and so on, those people are able to return to work now, albeit observing social distancing, but we need to try to start to get bits of the economy back to work.

"Now I don't know what Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, will say later in terms of self-employed and the furlough scheme for them, but I think there is a general overarching message here that we've had a very generous furlough scheme in place to help people through these extraordinary times and to ensure that businesses' overheads could be covered."

But he admitted that sectors that are still unable to open under the new lockdown rules face "the greatest challenge of all".

Extra help is being urged for the hospitality sector, where pubs and restaurants are currently still unable to get back to business.

At the moment the Government is paying the wages of 8.4million people, but the PM has said he wants people to start to return to work if they can.

The Treasury pays the 80 per cent chunk and employers can choose to top it up with 20 per cent if they want to.

But in the next few months the Government part is set to will reduce down to 60 per cent, and it's expected that employers will be mandated to pay 20 per cent, or 40 per cent if they were topping up wages to their full amount.

Experts fear that thousands of jobs could be lost from August onwards as employers decide they can't, or won't, pay the extra.

Nearly one in four firms say they cannot afford to top-up furloughed workers’ salaries – in a chilling sign of how many more jobs could be lost.

A survey of almost 700 company directors found that about half of those using the scheme said they could provide 20 per cent or more towards furloughed workers' full-time salaries between August and October.

Mr Sunak has said he will extend furlough until October, and will give the ability for some workers to do it part-time.

He is also expected to ask employers to pay national insurance and pension contributions too.


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