Fears over job cuts ahead as UK’s furlough scheme opens

Business leaders are warning that mass redundancies remain a threat as taxpayers today begin bearing the cost of millions of furloughed workers.

There are mounting fears that the lockdown of the economy will mean painful job losses at the end of the scheme, currently scheduled for the end of June.

Senior business figures have told The Daily Telegraph they are already grappling with whether to give notice of ­redundancies, in anticipation of a long slump in demand when shops and restaurants are allowed to reopen.

The package, which is due to begin accepting registrations via a new website at 7am this morning, means the Government will cover 80pc of wages of up to £2,500 for staff on leave for April, May and June.

Writing in tomorrow’s Telegraph, Sir John Timpson, chairman of repair chain Timpson, said he is concerned that if the support reaches an “abrupt end” there will be a sharp rise in unemployment. He has called for the support to be extended for July and August at a lower rate of 50pc.

Sir John will say: “Unless the furlough scheme continues into July and August, there will be a dramatic hike in the number of people out of work – far beyond current estimates.

“In the week before most non-food retailers were forced to close, our sales were falling by more than 50pc. When we get permission to reopen, I will ­expect to start where we finished: with only half last year’s sales.”

Economist Gerard Lyons, former ­adviser to Boris Johnson, agreed that while the policy has saved jobs “the challenge is when the economy comes back to life, and when we come out of lockdown”.

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