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UK Chancellor extends furlough scheme to end of March 2021

Five more months of furlough are expected for the UK

Wyndham's Theatre
© Alex Wood

The UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the job retention (furlough) scheme to March 2021.

Despite repeated insistence from the Chancellor that he wouldn't extend the scheme (prompting thousands to lose their jobs in anticipation of the originally scheduled end date), the scheme will now be in place with furloughed employees receiving up to 80 per cent of wages while on furlough, with employers contributing a small amount.

The nature of the scheme will be reviewed in January. There will be measures in place for freelance and self-employed workers, with Sunak saying that support for the self-employed will double to 80% of average earnings in the previous year, up to a maximum of £7,500 for a period from November to January.

Many have already bemoaned the fact that self-employment support schemes have eligibility criteria that do not benefit a large portion of the freelance workforce.

A whole raft of organisations have had to make redundancies over the last six months as they struggle financially – and, as such, the number of those actually able to go onto the scheme may be significantly lower for this time of year.

Jon Morgan, director of the Theatres Trust, reacted by saying: "Theatres Trust welcomes the Chancellor's announcement extending the furlough scheme until the end of March 2021 across the UK. While theatres remain at Stage 4 of the reopening plan, which only allows performances with socially distanced audiences, many will be unable to reopen viably after lockdown is lifted.

"Additionally for those theatres in areas returning to Tiers 2 and 3 after lockdown, where other night time businesses will be closed and travel severely restricted, reopening will be doubly challenging. Extending the Job Retention Scheme is a lifeline for theatres and we would like to see it remain in place until Stage 5 when theatres can welcome fuller audiences and reopen viably."

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