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Furlough numbers increase despite scheme's April deadline

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Tighter and extended lockdown restrictions have meant the number of employees on furlough rose by 700,000 in January this year, despite the scheme's currently scheduled end on 30 April 2021.

The rise in number adds to concerns voiced by lobbyists including the Trades Union Congress (TUC) which has been campaigning for the scheme to be extended until the end of the year to help protect jobs.

Speaking earlier in February, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: "The more people we keep in work, the faster we can recover. But with the job retention scheme set to end in April, millions of people’s jobs hang in the balance.

"It’s time to end the uncertainty and anxiety. The chancellor must urgently extend full furlough support to the end of the year to keep jobs safe."

The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In January a further 1.15 million employees were furloughed, an increase of 3%.

Eugenoi Pirri, chief people & culture officer at the Dorchester Collection, said that the prime minister's ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown plan shows how far away hospitality is from recovering to pre-coronavirus conditions. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Many companies lived in hope that once the vaccination programmes came into effect, that business would slowly reopen. 

“When the new year came and this did not happen, all plans were once again put on hold, thus furlough numbers rose even further.”

Pirri said that the hospitality sector tried to capitalise on home delivery options during the festive season to increase profits.

“However, when the new year came, the revenue to profit/loss statements, meant many could not support this business model long term and this resulted again in increased furlough numbers.

“Our industry is trying to do the right thing by our people by keeping them employed, but the reality is that this is so much more than just payroll.”

Pirri added: “All other expenses continue to mount and therefore, due to the lengthy time that has passed, recovery will last just as long as the pandemic.”

The CIPD is calling for the furlough scheme to be extended until at least the end of June this year to prevent more job losses.