Amplifying Voices Award

Protecting Workers’ Furlough campaign – TUC

Within days, the TUC were talking to the new Chancellor and his team in person, advocating hard for a generous system…

The Campaign

As the UK started to lock down in early March 2020, there was huge uncertainty about what the impact would be for employers and workers.  

Lockdown would be a serious interruption to trading and, without intervention, would result in economic collapse and immense hardship for workers. Moreover, without the Government making sure they still got paid, workers would be faced with a choice between breaking lockdown or depending upon inadequate social security.   

The TUC launched the campaign for a jobs subsidy scheme in mid-March 2020, publishing a plan and promoting it in the media and at a Select Committee hearing on the economic impact of the pandemic. Within days, the TUC were talking to the new Chancellor and his team in person, advocating hard for a generous system that started quickly and offered as much reassurance to employers and workers as possible.    



The Change

On 20 March 2020, the Chancellor announced that the Government would set up the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In his speech, the Chancellor credited the TUC and the CBI. The TUC was fortunate to be able to secure direct access to the new Chancellor, even though there was no pre-existing relationship.

The scheme, a big win for the union movement, guarantees that employees working for businesses that have been closed due to social restrictions, who may have otherwise lost their jobs, receive at least 80% of their wages. So far, it has protected 11 million jobs, preventing immediate widespread unemployment that would have devastated people’s lives and communities.

The Government has committed to keeping the furlough scheme running until the end of September 2021 – although the amount it contributes to wages will reduce to 70% in July and 60% in August.


The Future

The September 2021 end date creates a cliff edge, especially as it comes alongside the end of the Universal Credit uplift. The TUC will press the Government to ensure it adapts the job retention scheme to any changes of the Covid-19 roadmap. 

It is also calling for an overhaul of the social safety net, including raising both Universal Credit and legacy benefits, ending the five-week wait, and scrapping the two-child limit, benefits cap and no-recourse-to-public-funds rules. 

The TUC is lobbying for investment now in good, well-paid jobs to help to replace any jobs lost when the scheme ends. Fast-tracking projects such as broadband, green technology, transport and housing could deliver a 1.24 million jobs boost by 2022, and the TUC has set out plans to fill and create 600,000 jobs in the public sector. 

Who else was involved?

TUC member unions; the Resolution Foundation; CBI, FSB, BCC