LONDON — The British government announced Thursday that it would subsidize wages of workers whose jobs have been impacted by the pandemic and are unable to return to full-time employment.
The new “Job Support Scheme” will replace the current furlough program that has seen the British government pay up to 80 percent of the salaries of people unable to work. The new package is far less generous — and costly — than the current one, but the government still hopes to protect millions of jobs after the current furlough program comes to a close in October.
“I cannot save every job,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Parliament on Thursday. “But what we can and must do is deal with the real problems that businesses and employees are facing now.”
Starting in November and running for six months, employees who are working at least a third of their normal hours will be eligible to have their wages topped up — with both the government and employers chipping in a third. Employees who are not working will not be eligible.
Many business groups welcomed the new measures, but economists said it will not be enough to avert a sharp rise in unemployment. Last month, the British economy plunged into a record-shattering deep recession, shrinking by a fifth in the second quarter and posting the steepest decline of any Group of Seven nation. On Thursday, the United Kingdom reported 6,634 cases — the highest ever single-day figure since the outbreak began. Earlier in the week, the government introduced a raft of new restrictions that could be in place for six months.