Employers want furlough scheme extended to at least the end of September - report

FURLOUGHED staff should be allowed to work reduced hours and the jobs scheme should be extended to at least the end of September, according to employers.

A survey of more than 1,000 employers found support for the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to be made more flexible.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) warned that without changes, the scheme could prove to be a "waiting room" for unemployment and fail to protect significant numbers of the jobs it set out to save.

Around half of those questioned said they have furloughed staff, while another 10 per cent plan to do so.

Seven in 10 employers that have already used or are considering using the furlough scheme said that up to half of affected staff could potentially work reduced hours.

The CIPD said changes to the scheme to allow short-time working would enable hundreds of thousands of furloughed staff to work in some capacity, helping to protect jobs, support businesses and reduce the burden on public finances, as many employers would require a lower wage subsidy from the Government.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: "The Government has worked hard to get the Job Retention Scheme up and running so quickly. However, urgent decisions must now be taken to make it more flexible and to extend it so employers can continue to protect jobs.

"Letting furloughed staff work some hours, where possible, will enable organisations to bring back workers from furlough gradually while rebuilding their business. This will be vital as lockdown measures are eased over a number of weeks or months, and will reduce the risk of large-scale redundancies in this next phase of the crisis.

"The Government must also consider extending the scheme to at least the end of September. This will provide more certainty for employers and ensure that there is no 'cliff edge' exit from furlough straight to redundancy for hundreds of thousands of workers at the end of June.

"The Government has shown it's prepared to adapt and improve its rescue packages for businesses and workers as this crisis develops. It needs to do so again here. Equally, businesses must play their part.

"We need to see employers weigh up the ethical, legal and financial considerations of using the scheme, to act openly and responsibly to ensure that a more flexible system is not abused, and that public money goes to the businesses that need it the most."

Under the scheme - due to run until the end of June - the Government pays 80 per cent of wages of workers laid off because of the current crisis, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.