WAGES of millions of Brits were paid by the government when the coronavirus pandemic hit to prevent mass job losses.
As the Omicron variant spreads sparking fears of fresh restrictions, is the furloughscheme being brought back?
There is no furlough scheme in place right now. The original scheme was extended several times in 2020 and 2021.
Furlough officially came to an end on September 30 and fresh figures released today indicate that there has been no knock on effect to employment rates.
But ministers are being urged to guarantee support in case businesses have to shut.
According to insiders furlough could be brought back if new restrictions are put in place because of rising cases of Omicron.
The Sun today revealed secret plans for pubs and restaurants to shut in the coming weeks if the latest Covid strain piles pressure on hospitals.
Today the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that Britain should be prepared to bring back support if there are closures.
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In its annual analysis of the UK, the group of economic experts said that in "the event of a virulent Covid-19 wave requiring widespread mandated closures, the authorities should be ready to redeploy a subset of the most successful previous exceptional programmes".
This includes furlough scheme and targeted support to the most vulnerable households and small businesses, the IMF said.
Treasury officials said they're nowhere near relaunching furlough just yet, but would always look at new measures in case the outbreak spiralled.
A Treasury spokesman said: "We're taking the action set out in our Winter Plan and are acting early to help control the virus’s spread – while avoiding unduly damaging economic and social restrictions.
"Our £400bn covid support package will continue to help businesses into spring next year and we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus, as we have done since the start of the pandemic."
What is furlough and how does it work?
Furlough is essentially a pause on working to prevent job losses.
The government brought in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in early 2020 when the pandemic first forced businesses across the country to close.
Instead of making staff redundant the government paid part of their wages.
Under the scheme, furloughed workers receive 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month, if they couldn't work because of the impact of coronavirus.
Companies could also choose to pay extra to top up staff wages to 100%.
The specifics of the scheme changed over time though, including allowing a part-time return to work.
Furlough started to wind down over the summer with the government covering less of the wages and businesses covering more.
From July, employers had to provide 10% of the wages of their furloughed staff, with the government paying the rest. In August this increased to 20%.
The CJRS ended on September 30, 2021 with around 1.6million Brits still on the scheme.
There were fears that the cut off would lead to a large number or redundancies but jobs data indicates that has not happened and there are a record number of job vacancies.
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