South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has urged local businesses to apply for the UK Government’s furlough scheme, rather than laying workers off during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme opens today (Monday) and allows businesses to claim for 80 per cent of their employee’s wages, plus any employer National Insurance and pension schemes, if the employee has had to be furloughed due to Covid-19.

The scheme was recently extended by one month to reflect continuing social distancing measures. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said it will now be open until the end of June, after originally being open for three months and backdated from the 1 March to the end of May.

The Chancellor has also said he would keep the scheme under review and extend it if necessary.

Colin Smyth said: “As the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme opens, I am calling on local businesses here in the south of Scotland, who are being forced to close and whose staff cannot work from home, to seriously consider furloughing employees rather than making them redundant during this difficult time.

“The scheme allows businesses to claim 80 per cent of their employee’s wages if staff have had to be furloughed due to Covid-19 and I would urge business owners to take advantage of this.

“The scheme has also been extended and will now be open until the end of June, which is a very welcome move. The UK Government has said it will monitor the situation in the coming months with the view of potentially extending it. It’s clear to me that will need to happen as it will take many months if not years for those businesses which can continue to recover. Even if the percentage of support is gradually reduced over a period of time in the months ahead, it would make a huge difference to businesses in our area.

“I am still receiving huge numbers of queries and concerns from business owners across the south of Scotland and I will continue to hold to account both the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that our hard-pressed businesses are able to weather this economic storm.”

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