Extend Furlough to Save Jobs

The economy has risen to the top of the agenda in conversations I’ve been having with members this week. People are worried about jobs and, for some, the changes to the furlough scheme are leading to ruthless redundancies and increased resort to Universal Credit – particularly amongst those with zero hours contracts.
Cardiff is particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of the pandemic. There have been forecasts of unemployment in Cardiff being more than 50 per cent higher for at least two years, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility. The hardest hit sectors will likely be hospitality, leisure and retail – sectors that drive so much of the economy in our city.
These are also sectors that have attracted more part-time and flexible workers – often women and people just gradually coming back into the workforce while juggling other responsibilities. The likelihood is therefore that job losses will fall most heavily on the most under-represented and insecure groups. Worryingly in recent weeks key brands with big presences in our city like John Lewis and WHSmith have announced plans for redundancies.
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Much has been done by Cardiff Council to mitigate the impact of social distancing measures and Welsh Government continues to provide critical support where it can.
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However it is clear that the tapering of furlough is the key catalyst of redundancy announcements. This tapering is causing anxiety to millions and should be reversed.
As the pandemic looks set to continue to impact our daily lives and create challenges for business for some time to come, UK Government should reinstate and extend the furlough scheme at its pre-August level.
This would give businesses the confidence to retain staff and to provide continued income protection for millions of workers no matter what sort of trajectory the pandemic takes.
If and when the economy gets going businesses will require furlough less and less. Nevertheless, for sectors particularly vulnerable to localised, unpredictable lockdowns and to protect Cardiff against catastrophic levels of unemployment the UK Government should keep the full safety net of furlough in place for the foreseeable future.
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