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Coronavirus: Rishi Sunak urged to fund £3bn package to help millions at risk of losing jobs make career change

Reform say 10 million people's jobs are at risk due to coronavirus (PA)

2 min read

A package of more than £3billion is needed to help ten million workers make a career change and move out of roles affected by social distancing, according to a group of labour market experts.

The think tank Reform says without grants, changes to redundancy legislation, and an expansion of the Apprenticeship Levy the UK faces an “unprecedented unemployment crisis” due to the coronavirus. 

Ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s planned financial statement next week, they have set out a blueprint aimed at stopping millions of those currently on furlough from losing their jobs as the Government's Job Retention Scheme winds down.

Responding to Boris Johnson’s claim to want to “level up” the UK, they say any delay in delivering these measures “would be tantamount to levelling down”.

Reform, along with the Learning and Work Institute, highlight that the local authorities with a higher proportion of furloughed employees are more likely to have a higher proportion of their population already claiming benefits.

They say to help career switchers and mitigate any wage drops in starting over in a new sector, the Government should introduce a time-limited means-tested maintenance grant of up to £3,000, and a £5,000 learning account to invest in accredited training.

To incentivise employers firms should be allowed to use a proportion of their apprenticeship levy to subsidise wages, as part of a £3.2billion overall package.

And to ensure rapid support for workers at risk of unemployment, companies placing furloughed staff at risk of redundancy should be required to inform HMRC, and the current requirement to inform the Redundancy Payments Service if 20 or more staff are at risk should be reduced to five. 

Charlotte Pickles, director of Reform, said: “The Prime Minister this week underscored the exceptional economic challenge ahead. 

“However despite his pledge to ‘build back better’, the Government are yet to provide a comprehensive plan to alleviate the impending jobs crisis.”

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute, said: “Without urgent action, we risk a second spike in unemployment as the furlough scheme is withdrawn which could take unemployment to levels last seen after the Great Depression.”

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