A quarter of UK workers are now furloughed - and unemployment levels could rocket when the scheme ends

Thursday, 4th June 2020, 10:46 am
Updated Thursday, 4th June 2020, 10:46 am
Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced the furlough scheme as a response to economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced the furlough scheme as a response to economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)

An additional 300,000 staff were registered for furlough pay in the past week taking the total number of those on the government support scheme to 8.7m.

Over a quarter of the country's workforce are receiving money from the government as part of the scheme set up in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On top of that 200,000 self-employed workers have received government grants.

The schemes were extended to the end of October by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

Over £17.5bn has now been claimed through the scheme by UK firms, rising by £2.5bn this week.

Former Chancellors warns of 80s level unemployment

The latest figures came as former Chancellor Alastair Darling warned of 1980s levels of unemployment when the furlough scheme reaches an end.

Lord Darling, who served under Gordon Brown during the 2008 financial crisis, said:"We need to get ourselves into the frame of mind where we're thinking of 1980s levels of unemployment.

"If it doesn't happen, that's great but I think we need to be ready for that and if we're not people will ask why."

George Osborne who served under David Cameron said: "We didn't really have to deal with mass unemployment. We never faced the structural unemployment that we saw in the 1980s."

Recent changes

The scheme offers grants from HMRC to all UK employers who need help to pay the wages of staff who would otherwise be made redundant, funding 80 per cent of their salary, up to the value of £2,500 per month.

The scheme was originally meant to end in June but the Chancellor extended the scheme until the end of October last month.

As part of new changes Mr Sunak said employers will be able to bring workers back on a part-time basis and the government will require employers to make a contribution.

However, employees will continue to get the same support they do now, receiving 80 per cent of their wages.