More than one in eight UK workers were on furlough leave at the end of December and nearly £6bn was claimed in the last two months of 2020.
That’s according to new government figures out today (Jan 28), which showed that 13 per cent of employees were furloughed as of December 31.
More than one in three employers were claiming money to pay their staff as part of the scheme.
The figures were down slightly on November, when just over £3 billion was claimed, to December when
A little under £3bn was claimed in December – down slightly on November when just over £3bn was requested.
The number of people on furlough rocketed from 1.7m at the end of October to 4.1m a month later, after new claimants were allowed to be placed on furlough
Charlie McCurdy, a researcher at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: ‘The job retention scheme has been a living standards lifeline for millions of workers, with three in 10 private sector workers furloughed at the peak of the first lockdown.
‘And with the UK back in lockdown, over four million employees are likely to be on furlough right now.’
He added: ‘The winding up of the scheme in just three months’ time is expected to cause a fresh wave of unemployment.
‘It’s vital therefore that the chancellor ensures a flexible transition out of the scheme in order to avoid millions of workers simply moving from furlough straight into unemployment.’
Separate figures from the Treasury also showed that businesses are still needing support, with another £1.2bn paid out in Bounce Back Loans, which make up to £50,000 available to companies.
Nearly 40,000 more businesses were granted a Bounce Back Loan between December 13 and January 24, out of 66,000 applications.
Another £1.4bn was lent under two other loan schemes, bringing the total for Treasury-backed loans to nearly £71bn since the start of the pandemic.
Stephen Pegge, managing director of the commercial finance division at banking trade body UK Finance, said: ‘Many individual businesses and some specific sectors are facing significant and extended disruption and may find themselves in financial difficulty.’
He added that ‘widespread restructuring and recovery situations’ were expected, but the finance sector and related professional services would help support the turnaround of firms where possible, and treat sympathetically businesses that were unviable.