According to new data, the number of workers furloughed in both November and December 2020 surpassed the amount furloughed in October. Due to this, there have been calls to extend the furlough scheme beyond April. 

New research collected by HM Revenue and Customs has shown that the number of employees who have been furloughed has increased after October – when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was expected to end.

In October, the number of employees furloughed stood at 2.4 million. By mid-November, this figure had increased to 4.1 million but decreased to 3.9 million by the end of the month.

Similarly, provisional figures for December indicate that the number of people on furlough reduced at the beginning of the month before rising back up to 3.9 million. However, by the end of December, this number had fallen to 3.8 million.

The wholesale and retail sector, the accommodation and food services sector and the manufacturing sector had the highest proportion of employees furloughed.

In March, 1.21 million employees within the accommodation and food services sector had been furloughed but this dropped to 1.036 million by the end of December.

However, the number of workers furloughed within the wholesale and retail sector fell much more sharply. Although 1.18 million workers were furloughed near the end of March, provisional figures in December indicate that this number dropped to just 689,500.

When analysing regional data, across all English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the number of employments furloughed increased from 31 October to 31 December. London was the English region with the highest proportion of employees placed on furlough, with 641,200 workers furloughed by the end of the year.

The data also showed that, since the 1st July, more employments have been furloughed with female job holders than where the employee was male. By 31st December, 1.88 million female employees were furloughed whilst, for men, this number stood at 1.85 million.

Employees aged between 25 and 34 were also the most likely to be placed on furlough with 862,700 workers of this age being furloughed by the end of the year.

Several organisations such as the CBI have pushed for the Chancellor to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, sooner rather than later.

Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, said:

The Budget comes at a crucial time for the UK. The Government’s support from the very start of this crisis has protected many jobs and livelihoods, and progress on the vaccine rollout brings real cause for optimism.

But almost a year of disrupted demand and extensive restrictions to company operations is taking its toll. Staff morale has taken a hit. And business resilience has hit a sobering new low.

Many tough decisions for business owners on jobs, or even whether to carry on, will be made in the next few weeks. If the Government plans to continue its support then I urge them to take action before the Budget which is still more than six weeks away.

The rule of thumb must be that business support remains in parallel to restrictions and that those measures do not come to a sudden stop, but tail off over time. Just as the lifting of restrictions will be gradual, so must changes to the Government’s sterling support to businesses.

The Institute for Employer Studies also called on the Government to extend flexible furlough, stating that the pandemic was detrimentally affecting employees in low-paid and insecure jobs.

The TUC also urgently called on the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme, citing that it was a necessary step to keep jobs safe.

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. When the government planned to withdraw support last autumn, despite restrictions still being in place, unemployment surged. We can’t let that happen again.

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

*These figures were taken from the HMCR’s ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ statistics: January 2021′ which analysed figures of furloughed employees until 31st December 2020.