Chancellor Rishi Sunak today reveals his latest measures to help businesses - including agencies, suppliers and other parts of the property industry - to weather the latest Coronavirus challenges.
Many agencies, from the large corporates to small independents, took advantage of the furlough system introduced six months ago; this paid up to 80 per cent of employees’ salaries, including during the spring lockdown period, but the measure is being wound down and will close at the end of October.
Sunak has already pledged not to extend it, despite calls from some business and political organisations.
It is thought that well over 10,000 agency staff were on furlough at one time, although almost all agencies and suppliers that took advantage of the scheme have now seen their workers return.
Connells Group in particular won praise for its handling of the issue; it furloughed most staff during the lockdown but topped up the taxpayers’ Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme payments to ensure employees were paid 100 per cent of the basic and commission from March to July inclusive. All 600 of its High Street branches were open again by early August.
It is thought that Sunak today has four major options from which to choose - whichever, if any, is announced today will be heavily customised to suit British circumstances.
1. The CBI wants a one-year scheme to partly subsidise companies with employees who work 50 per cent or more of their normal hours;
2. A German-style option where the government would pay up to 80 per cent of money lost by employees working part-time as a result of the pandemic;
3. The French-style option, where firms may cut employees' hours by up to 40 per cent for up to three years, with some of the rest of the normal salary paid by the state;
4. A suggestion by the TUC wanting 80 per cent of wages guaranteed by government, rising to 100 per cent for staff on the minimum wage.