Furlough extension is a comfort – but do check detail

Jo Davies, managing director of Middlesbrough’s HR Alchemy, reflects on the furlough extension and other schemes announced by the chancellor during this week’s Budget…

I think Wednesday’s Budget was the most eagerly awaited that I can remember for some time…and, wow, did it deliver some fantastic news for the Tees region!

I would like to say a huge personal thank you to all those involved in bringing the freeport to Teesside, and the Treasury campus to Darlington, bringing potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs to the area. It’s a wonderful boost for our region, especially given the huge numbers of job losses we’ve experienced over recent years, in particular in steelmaking.

The furlough extension was not unexpected, but the duration was. It’s a comfort to know that the furlough scheme will remain an option even after the potential lifting of all lockdown restrictions in England on June 21.

However, it’s worth remembering in all the publicity that, from July 2021, the government will only contribute 70 per cent of wages for unworked hours, with organisations asked to provide the remaining 10 per cent. In August and September 2021, they will need to contribute 60 per cent, meaning organisations must provide 20 per cent.

As the owner of a small business, I was also pleased to see further grants for the self-employed, restart grants and the new Recovery Loan Scheme backed by a government guarantee.

I was also intrigued by the announcement of two new training schemes to help small businesses. The first of these is Help to Grow Management – offering management training with mentoring and with the government covering 90 per cent of the cost; secondly, there is Help to Grow Digital – offering small firms free training and 50 per cent discount on software. Both schemes could be really useful for businesses on Teesside.