More furloughed staff return to work

Hundreds more workers in Northumberland came off furlough in July – the first month employers had to make a contribution to salaries under the scheme.

By Alex Ross
Friday, 10th September 2021, 11:10 am
More furloughed employees returned to work in July.
More furloughed employees returned to work in July.

But with 1.6 million UK citizens still on furlough at the end of July, think tank the Resolution Foundation expects "a significant number" to lose their jobs when the government programme ends this month.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the latest figure – a 340,000 reduction from June 30 and the lowest since the start of the pandemic – was a sign of the country getting back to business.

The latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs show 6,000 jobs held by workers living in Northumberland were furloughed as of July 31 – 5% of all that were eligible.

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That was 1,200 fewer than the 7,200 furloughed at the end of June.

It was also down by more than two-thirds compared to the 19,900 on the scheme during the 2021 peak in January.

An age breakdown for those on furlough across local authority areas has also been published for the first time.

In Northumberland, people aged under 25 and 55-59 made up the highest proportions of those on furlough with each having 740 (12%) on the scheme.

Meanwhile, people aged 65 and over accounted for the smallest proportion – 450 (8%).

July was the first month that employers had to pay 10% of the salaries of their furloughed workers, giving them an incentive to bring staff back, or end their employment.

Employer contributions rose to 20% in August and September, and the scheme is due to finish at the end of this month.

HMRC said the furlough scheme had protected nearly 12 million jobs since it began 18 months ago.

But the Resolution Foundation said a slowing down in the number of employees coming off the scheme in July meant there was a risk of a fresh rise in unemployment in the autumn.

The number of people moved off furlough in July was lower than the 550,000 fall seen the month before.

Charlie McCurdy, economist at the think tank, said: "The number of people coming off furlough over the summer has slowed to a trickle, as some firms and sectors struggle to return to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

“As a result, up to a million employees could still be on furlough when the scheme closes at the end of this month.

“While we expect most of these staff to return to their previous roles, a significant number will not."

Following the reopening of indoor hospitality in May, the accommodation and food services sector continued to see the highest numbers of UK workers coming off furlough in July.

This was also the case in Northumberland, with the number of furloughed hospitality employees falling by 420.

It was followed by the manufacturing sector which saw 160 people come off the scheme.

The government said it was "doubling down" on its Plan for Jobs programme, aimed at providing skills and opportunities for people looking for work, ahead of the end of the furlough scheme.

Mr Sunak added: "It’s fantastic to see furlough levels at their lowest since the start of the pandemic with young people in particular getting back to work and kickstarting their careers as the UK gets back to business."