In March 2020, when the Government first announced details of its Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to support workers through the Coronavirus crisis, it was overwhelmingly welcomed by the CIPD, who in turn responded by working with its members and the wider HR community to understand the Government's support package.

As the crisis continued, it became clear to the CIPD that the scheme would need to become more flexible to allow short-term working and enable employers to bring workers back on reduced hours. In April, on the day that the Government announced the JRS would be extended until the end of June, the CIPD’s Chief Executive, Peter Cheese, wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to set out how introducing flexibility would benefit both workers and their employers.

This call was bolstered by a CIPD survey which showed that more than three quarters of employers that had already furloughed staff (76%) or planned to furlough staff (78%) said that making the scheme more flexible to enable furloughed staff to work reduced hours would be useful. Employers also agreed that they would like to see the JRS extended to the end of September. 

The CIPD continued to lobby for flexible changes and an extension after its survey found that the scheme has saved more than 4 million people from redundancy. 

Yesterday (Tuesday 12 May), Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the scheme will be extended until October. In response to the plans, CIPD’s Chief Executive Peter Cheese said: 

“The decision to extend the furlough scheme and make it more flexible at the same time will bring a sigh of relief from employers across the UK.

“These changes will give businesses the breathing space they need to bring people back from furlough gradually on reduced hours as lockdown measures are unwound.

“Without this, it’s very likely that the Government’s job retention scheme would have proved to simply be a waiting room for unemployment. The scheme has already saved as many as four million redundancies being made and will now continue to help protect jobs as the economy slowly recovers.

“We’re delighted that the Chancellor has listened to calls from the CIPD and people professionals to extend and make the scheme more flexible.

“We must also recognise that with more flexibility in the system comes a greater responsibility for businesses to make appropriate use of the scheme, and to support their people fairly. Businesses will need to show they are adapting as they gradually bring their people back to work, communicating openly, and that they have taken the necessary steps to make their workplaces safe in accordance with government guidance.”

The CIPD will continue to support people professionals navigate through the crisis with its dedicated Coronavirus hub, webinars, and Twitter Q&As.

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About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.