Rishi Sunak’s extension of the furlough scheme means taxpayers will have been keeping threatened jobs alive for more than a year during the pandemic.
The chancellor set out extra help for UK households and businesses after the announcement of a second lockdown in England – initially extending the help until 2 December then days later saying it would go on until the end of March.
In addition to the furlough, there will be similar aid for the self-employed, plus further payment holidays for mortgages and other loans.
The coronavirus job retention scheme will see the government pay 80% of wages for temporarily laid-off workers, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month, until the end of March.
But employers will be expected to cover national insurance and pension contributions.
The scheme will be reviewed in January to see if the economy has improved enough for it to be scaled back.
The jobs subsidy, designed to spare stricken employers from having to make workers redundant, had been due to finish at the end of October.
First launched in April – and backdated to 1 March – the furlough scheme initially saw the government cover 80% of wages for businesses that made claims.
It also initially covered NI and pension contributions – the latter representing about 5% of employee costs.
The scheme has been gradually scaled back, starting in August, and by October covered just 60% of wages.
So the newly-extended scheme from November covering 80% of wages will bring the scheme back to a similarly-generous level as that seen at the start of the pandemic.
The furlough scheme also allows employees to work reduced hours, which they will be paid for as normal, with the government subsidy covering hours not worked.
Those eligible will need to have been on the payroll on 30 October though there is an exception for those who were made redundant after 23 September, who can be re-employed and claimed for.
The less-generous job support scheme, which had been due to start this month, has now been postponed.
Self-employed workers will be able to claim 80% of trading profits for November-January, in a single payment capped at £7,500 – with the window for claiming the grant opening on 30 November.
It is designed to provide roughly the same amount of help as is being given to those eligible for the extended furlough scheme.
A further grant will follow to cover the February-April period.
Self-employed traders suffering from reduced demand or unable to work due to the coronavirus are eligible for the payments.
The Financial Conduct Authority has announced plans for more people to be able to apply for mortgage payment holidays, up to a maximum of six months.
Applications had previously been due to close at the end of October.
But those who have already benefited from a six-month deferral during the crisis are being advised to speak to their lender to agree “tailored support”.
The FCA is also proposing that no one has their home repossessed until after 31 January.
Borrowers financially affected by the coronavirus can also apply for payment holidays on credit cards, car finance, and personal loans.
Those who have already had payments put off can apply for a second deferral.
Government-backed loan schemes for businesses have been extended until the end of January.
Firms eligible for bounce-back loans – which are 100% backed by the taxpayer – will be able to top these up if they have not yet claimed the maximum available.
Other help includes grants of up to £3,000 a month for businesses that are closed in England due to national or local restrictions.
In addition there will be reduced rates of VAT for some sectors of the economy and business rates relief for others until the end of March for certain sectors of the economy, with the hospitality trade benefiting from both.
Increased levels of Universal Credit and local housing allowances will also continue into the spring.