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Furlough scheme and SEISS extended

UPDATED: 17.53, 05.11.20

The furlough scheme will be extended across the UK until the end of March 2021, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has confirmed.

Chanellor Sunak said the scheme will pay up to 80% of employee’s wage up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Speaking to the House of Commons, 5 November, he added that the Government will review the policy in January.

The news comes the same day as it was confirmed events for up to 30 can continue during lockdown, so long as they are necessary, and advice to Local Authorities suggested events businesses should be helped.

Responding to the news, Juliet Price, consultant executive director at the Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) welcomed the news, but said it should have been announced much sooner, saving many jobs in the process. “At last the chancellor has given us clear longer-term information at an earlier stage so that the industry can plan ahead and not just wait with uncertainty until the end of lockdown,” she said.

“It would have been better to have had this available and announced before many jobs were lost and businesses jeopardised. However, added to the news today that the revised guidance allows  ‘necessary’ meetings for less than 30 to continue being held at permitted venues in England, we now have positive steps forward for many business events and meetings companies, their staff, and the self-employed.”

Price added that it was a “welcome relief” to see specific mention of the events industry sector in the Government’s instruction to local authorities when distributing the discretionary funding pot. 

“We need every possible support to keep all the talented people in our industry, including training them to work on hybrid and virtual meetings until major live events can begin again,” she added.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association, said that business meetings and events organisations will only be required to cover national insurance and pension contributions for employees who have been furloughed under the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, similar to the previous arrangement, which was in place in August 2020. 

She added: “As we currently understand it, employers will be able to claim furlough backdated to 23 September, which could potentially give some in the sector, who have been forced to make redundancies, the chance to consider whether their business can re-employ those staff if they meet the eligibility criteria (See 2.4 of the guidance.)."

Meanwhile, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has welcomed the extension of SEISS and hopes “Government will do the right thing” by matching employee support until March. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) of 80% of income has been extended until January.

Derek Cribb, CEO of IPSE said it is “absolutely right” for the Government to adapt its approach and extend SEISS at the same level as the furlough scheme until January. “We hope the Government will do the right thing and extend it in-line with employee support until March,” he said. 

“We also urge the Government to finally address the gaping holes in SEISS, extending support to the desperately struggling newly self-employed, limited company directors and other groups it has so far left behind. 

“The government has provided admirably robust support for many employees and self-employed people, but at every turn it continues to ignore large groups of the self-employed who have been financially devastated in the last six months. We thank the government for its support, but must press on it the urgent need for a targeted approach to help these forgotten groups.”