More than half of furloughed employees have already returned to work ahead of the scheme being phased out from Saturday, new research suggests.
The Resolution Foundation said reports that nine million workers remained furloughed under the UK Government scheme are “wide of the mark”.
From August 1 firms have to contribute towards the cost of furloughed workers by paying their employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
The think-tank said its analysis suggests that the peak number of furloughed workers was almost eight million in late April.
Millions of furloughed staff have since returned to work, either fully or as partially furloughed part-time workers, meaning that fewer than 4.5m employees are now furloughed, said the report.
Up to May 31 this year 316,500 people in Wales across a variety of sectors were placed on furlough – more than a quarter of Wales’ 1.2m working people. You can read more about the full extent of take-up of furlough in Wales here.
The furlough scheme provides employers with financial support up to 80% of salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month per employee, though it is now being phased out.
The Resolution Foundation said the peak and subsequent fall in the number of workers on the job retention scheme demonstrates its success in protecting firms and employees during the lockdown’s introduction and easing.
However with millions of staff still furloughed the threat of significant redundancies looms large as the scheme is phased out between August and October, the report added.
Dan Tomlinson, senior economist at the foundation, said: “The job retention scheme has supported around a third of the private sector workforce at some point since lockdown began, protecting family incomes and preventing catastrophic levels of unemployment.
“But, with the number of furloughed workers having peaked in late April, it is misleading to say that nine million workers are currently furloughed. Over half of these workers have now returned to work as lockdown restrictions have eased. The true figure is below 4.5m.
“But while furloughing is currently far less widespread than commonly claimed there are still millions of employees without work, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sectors. These workers face a heightened risk of unemployment as the JRS starts to be phased out from today.
“The Chancellor should reduce this risk by phasing out support for these hardest-hit sectors more slowly.”