Chancellor expected to take decision on ‘weaning’ workers off furlough scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a media briefing in Downing Street, Lond

Chancellor Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Coronavirus (COVID-19). Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to make a decision on how and when the government's furlough scheme will be phased out this weekend, after an official in Downing Street said people were becoming 'addicted' to it.

Talks on the future of the costly support programme will be held in advance of prime minister Boris Johnson's 'roadmap' announcement on Sunday, the Financial Times says.

At least 6.3 million people are currently having up to 80% of their salaries paid by the taxpayer under the furlough system at a cost of some £8 billion.

Earlier this week, chancellor Rishi Sunak said he was preparing to 'wean' workers and business off the programme amid concerns that the nation was becoming 'addicted' to it.

A senior Tory MP also told the House of Commons that people had been 'too willing' to decide to stay at home.

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But there are said to be worries that a shutdown of the scheme in June could put millions of jobs at risk 'if companies were forced to open during weakened economic conditions after the lockdown ends'.

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The Financial Times added that ministers have flagged the possibility of the scheme instead being phased out over the coming months 'while also bringing in greater flexibility to allow some workers to return part-time initially'.

Craig Beaumont, director of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, told the paper: 'We really hope to see progress made on a part-time furlough because smaller businesses in particular benefit from being able to quote for new work, keep in touch with employees and pay their invoices.'

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