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Construction furloughs fall but 403,000 jobs remain on scheme

24 August 2020

The number of construction workers furloughed under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as of the end of June fell by 318,000 from its April peak.

But 403,000 workers remained on the scheme, which provides employers with financial support of up to 80% of their employees’ salary up to £2,500 a month per employee, as of 30 June.

That was down from a high of 721,000 workers furloughed on 14 April. In total, 174,000 construction employers have taken advantage of the scheme, with a total of 769,000 employments furloughed at some point, representing a take-up rate of 60%. In Northern Ireland, 71% of employments were furloughed, while in Scotland it was 73%, compared to 58% in England.

HMRC figures show that UK businesses have claimed a total of £30.9bn through the scheme up to 31 July, with the construction sector accounting for £2.9bn, nearly 10% of that figure.

The government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on 20 March this year. After 1 August, the level of grant under the scheme will be reduced each month. From September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 a month for the hours an employee is on furlough. From October, it will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours an employee is on furlough.

Despite the retention scheme’s significant take-up, the number of people in the UK employed in construction fell by 5.3% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the year before – a decline of 124,000 people.