U.K. Considering Extending Job Retention Program, Sturgeon Says
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government is willing to consider extending the job retention programs put in place to shield workers from the worst economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“There’s a willingness to consider extending those programs,” she told lawmakers in Edinburgh on Wednesday. “Conversations are ongoing” between the U.K. government and the devolved Scottish administration, she said, without giving further details.
Sturgeon’s comments contrast with the U.K. government’s official stance that the support will come to an end in October. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, later told reporters he isn’t aware of any plans to change the timetable of the program.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak took the unprecedented step of paying a portion of workers’ wages in March to avert huge increase in unemployment as the economy was largely brought to a halt by the lockdown. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is paying 80% of the wages of more than 9 million jobs, has already cost more than 22 billion pounds ($27.5 billion). That figure is forecast to rise to 60 billion pounds by the time the program ends.
Government support is due to be tapered from August, with firms gradually taking on more of the burden of paying workers until it terminates in October.
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