A new job retention bonus scheme aiming to encourage employers to keep on furloughed staff has been unveiled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and welcomed by the Publishers Association and Independent Publishers Guild.
The current furloughing scheme, which has paid the wages of more than nine million people during the coronavirus crisis, comes to an end in October. Chancellor Rishi Sunak's new plan will see companies given a one-off £1,000 bonus for every furloughed employee they keep on until 31st January 2021.
He said: “We will pay the bonus for all furloughed employees. So if employers bring back all nine million this would be a £9bn policy to retain people in work.”
The announcement was part of a package of measures that included a £2bn kickstart scheme aiming to create more jobs for those aged 16 to 24 via subsidised six-month work placements for those on Universal Credit. A temporary stamp duty holiday is also being brought in to boost the property market.
Sunak said: “Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs. It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire. To create jobs in every part of our country. To give young people a better start. To give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start.”
All big presses made use of the government's furloughing scheme earlier this year as the pandemic kicked in. However, many major publishers told The Bookseller last month that the vast majority of staff were already being brought back and stressed they had no plans for redundancies.
Welcoming today's announcement, Independent Publishers' Guild c.e.o. Bridget Shine said: "The furlough scheme has undoubtedly helped many of our members to protect jobs over the last few months, and the flexibility over working hours that has just been introduced has encouraged businesses to start bringing people back to work. The phased contributions that employers are expected to make to salaries will be a burden to some, so this new bonus scheme is a useful compensatory measure.
"The independent publishing sector is full of incredibly talented professionals, and while the gradual winding down of furloughing is a concern, redundancies will be a very last resort for employers."
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, said: “We welcomed the Chancellor’s plan for jobs today, and are reassured by the steps the government is taking to support employers and employees. We were also pleased to see the government’s new apprenticeships incentives and look forward to working with our members to create new, exciting opportunities.
He added: “In order to get the publishing industry thriving again we need the government to ensure there is a fair market for books, including support for bookshops. It is also vital that schools have funding for the resources their students need and that publishers are able to access their key overseas markets.”