A Shetland business representative has welcomed the extension of a scheme helping employers retain their workforce through the Covid-19 crisis.
Living Lerwick’s project manager Emma Miller said today’s announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was a “massive help”.
Mr Sunak said the UK government’s job retention scheme would be extended by four months until October.
Ms Miller had warned last week that without an extension to the scheme some businesses may have had to start considering redundancies. She said some in Shetland had already begun to ask staff if they would be prepared to return on a part time basis.
Speaking after today’s announcement, Ms Miller said: “I’m sure this will be a very welcome announcement for businesses.
“At this time businesses are most concerned about reopening.
“They have legitimate concerns about how they are supposed to open their businesses and try to trade as normal when trading conditions are not going to be anything like normal.
“So this will be a massive help to them.”
Despite concerns that the scheme would pay out just 60 per cent of the employee’s salary, up to £2,500, Mr Sunak also confirmed it would be retained at 80 per cent.
Ms Miller said it would have been hard for the economy to recover if people’s wages had been slashed to 60 per cent, as they would have no disposable income to spend in shops and businesses when they do start to reopen.
The scheme will run unchanged until the end of July, after which Mr Sunak intends to introduce “greater flexibility to support the transition back to work”.
Employers will be able to bring furloughed employees back part time. Employers will also be asked to start sharing the cost of paying the salaries.
Making his announcement today, Mr Sunak said: “This government’s plan is one of the most comprehensive anywhere in the world.
“We have provided billions of pounds of cash grants, tax cuts and loans for over one million businesses, tens of billions of pounds in deferred taxes, income protection for millions of the self employed and a strengthened safety net to protect millions of our most vulnerable people.”
He added: “We believe in the dignity of work. And we are doing everything we can to protect anyone currently unable to work.
He said the scheme had been a “world leading economic intervention” supporting livelihoods and protecting futures. He said 7.5 million jobs had been furloughed, representing jobs that could have been lost
Mr Sunak said the scheme had supported nearly one million businesses “who could have closed shop for good”.
“I’m extending this scheme because I won’t give up on the people that rely on it,” he said.
“Our message today is simple we stood behind British workers and business as we came into this crisis and we will stand behind them as we come through the other side.”