The Labour Party has urged the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme in a “smart” way, allowing jobs to be protected whilst restrictions are still ongoing. 

Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Chancellor of the Labour Party, has stated that a smart extension to the furlough scheme must be implemented.

Ms. Dodds warned the Chancellor against ending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) whilst public health restrictions are still in place and demand for the scheme is still high.

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that the number of employees furloughed reached 4.1 million in November 2020. Provisional figures for December indicate that there were 3.8 million workers on furlough at the end of the year.

Due to this, the Labour Party have asked Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, to extend the scheme immediately in addition to reforming the scheme – a priority deemed as “urgent”.

There was also a demand for a new introduction of skills and development programmes that would allow workers to improve their skills while being placed on furlough. Labour also stated that tougher conditions should be brought against employers which would stop abuse.

Ms. Dodds was also critical towards the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, a scheme which aims to create new job placements for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment.

She called for the “failing scheme” to face an overhaul, a move that would help to recover jobs.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs has been a disaster. Seven months after its launch, we’ve got record redundancies, soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

We need urgent action to secure, recover and create jobs. This must include a smarter furlough scheme, an overhaul of the failing Kickstart youth programme, and reform of the shambolic Green Homes Grant as part of wider action to ‘Build it in Britain’ and support the creation of 400,000 clean, new jobs.

People can’t afford to wait for the Chancellor to get his act together. They need emergency action today, not more dither and delay until the Budget.

The calls for a furlough extension have been echoed by many organisations.

The CBI have urged the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme before the Budget, allowing businesses apt time to make decisions about employees. It asked that “business support remains in parallel to restrictions” and that measures “should not come to a sudden stop but tail off over time”.

The TUC also asked Mr. Sunak to extend the furlough scheme until the end of 2021 in order to “keep jobs safe”.

Currently, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is expected to finish at the end of April after a series of extensions made last year – a move the Labour party criticised as “last-minute changes”.