Businesses will be able to bring furloughed employees back to work part time from today – a month earlier than previously planned.
More than 57,000 workers have been furloughed across North Staffordshire during the Covid-19 crisis.
Figures from HM Revenue & Customs show that almost a third of employees across Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands have been supported under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) since April.
Lockdown-hit employers in Stoke-on-Trent made claims for 31,100 furloughed workers up to the end of May, with a further 14,400 claims in Newcastle and 12,100 in the Moorlands.
But the Government has announced that companies can bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis starting now – weeks earlier than previously planned.
It means companies which have taken advantage of furlough – such as JCB, Churchill China, Steelite and Alton Towers will have the flexibility to decide the hours and shift patterns of their employees – with the government continuing to pay 80 per cent of salaries for the hours they do not work.
With an average CJRS claim of around £2,000 per employee, it is likely that employers in North Staffordshire have claimed more than £200 million for furloughed staff so far.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “Our number one priority has always been to protect jobs and businesses through this outbreak.
“The furlough scheme, which will have been open for eight months by October, has been a lifeline for millions of people and as our economy reopens we want that support to continue.
“Giving firms the flexibility to bring back furloughed workers on a part-time basis will help them work gradually and help them plan for the months ahead.”
From August, the level of government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work.
Businesses will be asked to contribute a share although workers will continue to receive 80 per cent of their salary covering the time they are unable to work.
Across the country, the scheme has so far helped protect more than 9.3 million jobs, with employers claiming more than £25.5bn to support wages.
Alun Rogers, chairman of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said the government support had been vital for businesses in the county during the crisis.
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He said: “The job retention scheme has been critical in supporting employees and businesses across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire following the Covid-19 outbreak and we’re pleased the government acted swiftly to put it in place.
“We are of course monitoring the scheme in our area and, working with the government, will do all we can to support people as it transitions over the coming months.”