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Cumbrian businesses welcome changes to Job Support Scheme

Changes to the Government’s new Job Support Scheme (JSS), which launches on 1 November, have been welcomed by businesses in Cumbria.

Jo Lappin, Chair of the Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG) of the Local Resilience Forum, said that the improvements to the scheme will make it far more effective as far as Cumbria’s businesses are concerned.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced plans for the JSS last month with its November 1 launch timed to coincide with the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as furlough, which has subsidised the wages of almost 10 million workers since March.

In Cumbria, over 78,000 jobs have been furloughed at some point since March, which has made a significant contribution to protecting businesses and protecting jobs.

The JSS will run for six months from November 1 and will top up wages when companies cannot take their employees back on a full-time basis.

The significant changes recently announced are that employees can now work fewer hours to qualify and, secondly, government will make a bigger cash contribution towards wages so that employers don't have to pay so much.

The minimum hours employees need to work to qualify for JSS will now be one-fifth, down from a third when the scheme was initially announced, meaning that someone can work just one day a week to qualify.

Instead of government and firms paying 33.3% of unworked hours each, the government will now fund 61.67% of all unworked hours, with the employer funding 5%. Therefore, an employee on a third of their hours will get exactly the same 78% pay as they would have under the previous scheme; the government just makes a bigger contribution.

Mrs Lappin, Chief Executive of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Many Cumbrian businesses will be pleased to see that the JSS offers further Government support as the Job Retention Scheme draws to a close.

“Government has clearly listened to businesses about the gaps in the JSS following its announcement last month and responded with improvements that make it work far better for businesses and their employees.”

The JSS launch follows completion of wave 5 of a Cumbrian Economic Impact Assessment carried out on BERRG’s behalf.

Results from that latest survey indicated that 90 per cent of those who responded were trading, with confidence improved and almost three quarters of businesses now feeling that they could survive the next six months. However, only 37 per cent thought that they would last another two years.

More staff that had been furloughed had now returned to work, with the general claimant count reduced. However, there had been an increase in claims for Universal Credit for those who were working, due to financial pressures.

Mrs Lappin continued: “It’s obviously still a very challenging and unpredictable environment for our businesses and we would urge Government to consider all options to help the economy through the winter months and beyond.

“Whilst the changes announced are to be welcomed, there are still a number of concerns being expressed by our businesses in relation to, for example, more help required for the newly self-employed and lower paid employees.

“I’d therefore like to take the opportunity once again to urge people within the county to ‘think local’ and do whatever they can to support our businesses across all sectors in the weeks and months ahead.”

Full details on the JSS can be found here:

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