The UK government has pledged to extend the furlough scheme, which covers 80% of worker wages, on the same day that England enters a second nation-wide lockdown.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the scheme, which was meant to be wound down at the end of October, will now run until the end of March next year. It will be reviewed in January and the government is likely to ask employers to make contributions.
Sunak said that “significant” economic uncertainty amid a brutal second wave of coronavirus meant it was right “to go further” in paying the wages of people who might otherwise lose their jobs. People in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will also benefit from the scheme, he added.
To give people across the UK certainty over the winter, I can announce today that the furlough scheme will not be extended for one month – it will be extended until the end of March.
Employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to £2,500 a month. pic.twitter.com/WtTqOcR61a
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) November 5, 2020
The extension brings the UK closer in line with Germany, which has made its furlough initiative available until the end of next year. The salary scheme has been a lifeline for many film and TV sector workers, with broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 4 taking advantage. Many self-employed freelancers have, however, fallen through the cracks of government support.
England entered a second lockdown on Thursday, which will run until December 2 and potentially longer if the rise in COVID cases is not sufficiently arrested. The government has said, however, that film and TV production can continue, which was a huge relief for many in the industry.