Coronavirus: More than 200,000 NI workers furloughed

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More than 200,000 workers in Northern Ireland have been furloughed as part of the government’s job retention scheme.

The scheme allows companies to keep staff at home with the government paying 80% of normal wages up to a maximum of £2,500 a month during the coronavirus pandemic.

It was due to end in June but has been extended until October.

There have been almost nine million claimants across the UK.

New figures released by the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) indicate that 211,700 claims were submitted by employers in Northern Ireland from the start of the scheme up to 31 May 2020.

The figures show that the highest number of employees were furloughed in the local government districts of Belfast (36,000), Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (24,300), Newry, Mourne and Down (21,300) and Mid Ulster (20,300).

Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently set out details of how employers will be asked to help pay the wages of workers on the scheme.

Employers will have to start making “modest contributions” from August, increasing in September and October.

From 1 July, businesses will be able to bring furloughed employees back to workplaces part-time, a month earlier than previously announced.

From 1 August, employers will have to pay National Insurance and pension contributions for their staff. Furloughed workers will continue to receive 80% of their pay.

In September, employers will then pay 10% of employees’ salaries – rising to 20% in October.

The NI Executive has called for greater flexibility around the scheme with Economy Minister Diane Dodds warning changes to the scheme could be incredibly difficult” for some NI firms.

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