The Publishers Association and Booksellers Association have welcomed the extension of the government’s job retention scheme until the end of October and the prospect of increased flexibility enabling employers to bring furloughed employees back part-time from August onwards. However, the trade bodies have called for more detail, as employers are asked to “start sharing” the cost.
After last week promising there would be no "cliff edge" cut-off, Chancellor Rishi Sunak today (12th May) confirmed the job retention scheme would be extended for four months until the end of October “to maximise the possibility [those furloughed] will have a job to go back to”.
Until the end of July, there will be no changes to the scheme “whatsoever”, the Chancellor explained. Those furloughed will be entitled to the same level of support, continuing to be paid 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month.
However, between August and October, the scheme will continue with “greater flexibility” enabling employees to return to work part-time. Employers will also be asked to "start sharing, with the government, the costs of paying people's salaries". Details have yet to be shared on this but are due to be published before the end of May.
The Publishers Association reacted to the Chancellor’s announcement by welcoming the extension of the scheme and the prospect of increased flexibility, which it has previously called for; but more detail on the part to be played by employers is needed, it said.
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, said: "We welcome the government's decision to continue the job retention scheme until the end of October and introduce a part-time support option. This gives publishers the critical time they need to plan for how they will scale up their operations and consider how they will bring their employees back to work. However, we need more detail about what support will be required from employers, in order to plan effectively."
Laura McCormack, head of policy and public affairs at the BA, echoed the PA, saying "clarity is still urgently needed for businesses".
"We welcome the extension of the furlough scheme to later in the year," she said, "but clarity is still urgently needed for businesses, including bookshops, to be able to plan accordingly. In particular, there has been no clarification on exemptions from rent, the details of part-time furlough, and whether the extension of financial help will also apply to the self-employed, all of which are highly pertinent issues for booksellers.
"Additionally, the government needs to outline the phasing promised on the re-opening of non-essential retail alongside more detailed guidance on what specific social distancing measures small shops can carry out as this was sorely lacking in yesterday’s 'working safely' documents."
Business secretary Alok Sharma said at the government's coronavirus press conference yesterday (Tuesday 12th May) that more details on the furloughing cost share by employees would be given "by the end of the month."
The Chancellor had previously warned the job retention scheme in its current form is not "sustainable". More than 7.5 million people in the UK have now been furloughed, according to his address.