Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Budget to the House of Commons yesterday (3rd March), vowing to provide sustained support to the British public. 

Chancellor Sunak announced a three-step plan as part of the Budget which intends to “protect jobs and livelihoods” as the pandemic continues.

Most notably for HR, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of September.

Although furloughed workers will continue to receive 80 per cent of their salary for hours not worked, employer contributions will raise to 10 per cent in July and 20 per cent in August and September.

In addition to this, support for the self-employed (SEISS) will also continue until the end of September. As part of this, the SEISS will be expanded to include over 600,000 more self-employed people who were previously not eligible for this.

The National Living Wage is also set to see an increase from April, seeing a rise from £8.72 currently to £8.91 an hour.

Mr. Sunak also announced a doubling of incentive payments for businesses to hire new apprentices, now reaching £3000 for each new apprentice hired, regardless of age. The number of traineeships is also expected to triple due to an investment of £126 million by the Government.

New grants linked to the Restart Scheme will be available from April to businesses, providing a one-off cash grant of up to £18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses in England. In addition, non-essential businesses will be eligible for Restart grants of up to £6000 per premises.

Small and medium-sized employers in the UK will continue to be able to reclaim up to two weeks of eligible Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs per employee from the Government.

Other notable features of the Budget include:

  • A new UK-wide Recovery Loan Scheme to make available loans between £25,001 and £10 million to help businesses of all sizes through the next stage of recovery
  • Six-month extension of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift in Great Britain which will be in the form of a one-off £500 payment
  •  A new Help to Grow scheme which will provide around 130,000 SMEs across the UK with management training, technology advice and discounted software.
  • Reforms to the immigration system which will help UK businesses attract the best international talent.
  • Extension of the Film & TV Production Restart scheme in the UK, with an additional £300 million to support theatres, museums and other cultural organisations in England through the Culture Recovery Fund.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, reacted to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme being extended, stating:

This action will save thousands of viable jobs that otherwise would have been lost if the scheme had finished at the end of April, and could help ensure that unemployment undershoots the official forecasts.

This will help buy critical time for the vaccination programme to be rolled out across more of the working-age population and for economic recovery to take root.

According to the Chancellor, the OBR have now forecast a “swifter and more sustainable recovery” than was previously expected in November 2020 due to the measures laid out. This means it is now predicted that the economy will return to its pre-COVID levels by the middle of 2022, six months earlier than previously thought.