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Calls for furlough scheme to be extended until the end of 2021

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged the government to extend the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme to the end of the year before unemployment surges.

The furlough scheme was extended until the end of April in December – it was previously meant to end in March, following several extensions.

But the TUC says this isn’t enough. It says the two largest rises in unemployment in 2020 occurred in months when support was reduced or expected to end.

In July 2020, when the initial job retention scheme ended and a modified scheme reduced levels of support, unemployment rose by 17%. And in October 2020, when the job retention scheme was due to fully end on 31 October, and an extension into 2021 not announced until 5 November, unemployment rose by 8%.

Unemployment figures published today show that more than 17.2 million people were unemployed in the three months to November.

The TUC says that the government must recognise the damage done by withdrawing support too soon, or by failing to guarantee continuation of support until the eleventh hour.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “The more people we keep in work, the faster we can recover. But with the job retention scheme set to end in April, millions of people’s jobs hang in the balance.

“When the government planned to withdraw support last autumn, despite restrictions still being in place, unemployment surged. We can’t let that happen again.

“It’s time to end the uncertainty and anxiety. The chancellor must urgently extend furlough support to the end of the year to keep jobs safe.”

The furlough scheme was introduced in March 2020 when lockdown restrictions were announced.

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