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Over half of furloughed UK staff back at work, think tank estimates

Sat, 1st Aug 2020 00:01

LONDON, Aug 1 (Reuters) - More than half of the roughly 9
million British employees who were put on furlough during the
coronavirus lockdown have already returned to work, the
Resolution Foundation think tank estimated on Saturday.

Britain's finance ministry has said furlough payments
totalling 32 billion pounds ($42 billion) so far have been made
in respect of a cumulative 9.5 million jobs, but does not
publish figures on the current number of furloughed workers.

Based on an analysis of surveys of businesses and households
from the Office for National Statistics, the Resolution
Foundation estimated that the number of furloughed workers is
"certainly below 4.5 million" and possibly as low as 3 million.

The furlough scheme started alongside the lockdown in March,
and is due to end in October, after which many economists fear
unemployment could rise sharply, surpassing the peak seen after
the financial crisis.

Official data on Thursday showed big differences between
sectors, with more than 90% of information technology and
sewerage workers not furloughed, but almost half of staff in the
hospitality, arts and leisure sectors still needing help.

"These workers face a heightened risk of unemployment as the
Job Retention Scheme starts to be phased out," Resolution
Foundation economist Dan Tomlinson said.

From this month, employers must begin to contribute to the
cost of paying furloughed workers, who receive 80% of their
normal salary.

Last week, Britain's National Institute of Economic and
Social Research and the opposition Labour Party called for the
programme to be extended until the middle of next year.

But finance minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly rejected
calls for an extension, and his deputy Steve Barclay said
workers' skills were likely to degrade if they spent more than
eight months off work, waiting for a job that might not return.

Employers will receive 1,000 pounds for each furloughed
worker they take back and keep employed until the end of
January.
(Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison)

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