90% of furloughed workers back at old workplace in August, figures show

Some 4.3 million people came off furlough between April and July.

London jobs
London jobs

Workers who were taken off furlough overwhelmingly went back to their old places of work, according to figures from the Government.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that 90% of the workers who left the furlough scheme between April and July returned to their pre-Covid employers.

The Government said that 4.3 million people came off the furlough scheme during those months. The scheme supported 9.6 million workers at its peak.

However, the figures are based on data from August this year, and potentially hide the worst of the redundancies that came later in the year.

Between March and August the Government covered 80% of the salaries of all employees who had been furloughed, with no cost to the employer.

But from the beginning of September, employers had to step in to cover 10% of the money, up to a maximum of £312.50 a month. In October this employer contribution doubled.

The only cost for employers in August was national insurance and pension contributions.

The acting general secretary of union GMB, John Phillips, told the PA news agency: “There is no doubt that the original furlough scheme we pushed so hard for helped to protect jobs and incomes through the first wave of the pandemic.

“But we’re yet to see the true impact of the Chancellor’s subsequent chopping and changing of job support schemes, which has seen incentives to employers reduced and workers left increasingly vulnerable through the autumn.

“Rishi Sunak was forced yet again to revise his flawed Winter Economic Plan this week, but the jury is still out on the irreversible damage that has already been done by cutting off vital support at just the same time the second wave and the chaos of local lockdowns began to take hold.”

In March, 14,000 people came off furlough. This rose to 403,000 in April, 1.4 million in May, and 2.5 million in June.

Of the people who came back to work in March, only 70% were still with their old employer by August.

The data shows that the worst-hit sectors included administrative and support services, accommodation and food services, and households, with only 85% of workers still on payroll by August.

The category “other service activities” was the absolute worst performer at 84%.

People working in the “public administration and defence; social security” sector were most likely to keep their job by August, at 97%.

The figures also revealed that London-based workers were most likely to no longer be with their pre-lockdown employer by August, when only 87% still worked in the same place.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: “It’s good news that some people have returned to their jobs. But these figures still show over 400,000 job losses for furloughed workers in the summer months.

“Those who have remained on furlough for longer are likely to be in hard-hit sectors, like hospitality and the arts. And they face tougher challenges for returning to work.

“From November, the furlough scheme will be replaced by the job support scheme, which pays workers just over 70% of wages.

“The Chancellor should make this support easier to access, with a higher wage subsidy, to give more jobs a better chance of survival. And he’ll need to boost job creation and increase the support available from Universal Credit for those who do lose work.”

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