The Sunday Telegraph

Garden owners want to stay on furlough, warns Leadsom

- By Dominic Penna

FURLOUGH has “been great” for lots of people with gardens and vegetable plots and they do not want to return to work, the former business secretary has said.

Dame Andrea Leadsom, the Conservati­ve MP for South Northants, suggested a permanent shift to working from home could also harm the economy as it attempts to recover from lockdowns and the pandemic.

Dame Andrea said the Job Retention Scheme, in place since the first lockdown in March 2020, has added to anxiety about returning to work.

“People have, to be perfectly frank, become used to being on furlough,” she told BBC Radio 4.

“For some people they’re just terrified, so it’s like ‘I’ve been on furlough for so long, I really can’t quite face going back to the office’, and employers are rightly saying ‘well, you need to’.

“For other people, it’s like, ‘being on furlough in lockdown has been great for me – I’ve got a garden, I’ve been able to go out walking every day, I’ve got great vegetables growing, I don’t really want to go back to work, maybe I’ll think about part-time or retire early’.”

Britons resuming their work and returning to offices is “critical” in enabling the economy to “bounce back” from the cost of coronaviru­s restrictio­ns during the last year and a half, Dame Andrea said.

The scheme, which lets businesses keep workers on through an 80 per cent subsidy from the Government, will start to be wound down from July.

Employers will contribute 10 per cent of the wage bill from July 1 as part of a “tapered” end to the scheme, before it finishes altogether in September.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week rejected demands from businesses to extend furlough despite the four-week

‘For some they’re terrified, it’s: “I’ve been on furlough for so long, I really can’t face going back to the office”’

delay to the end of lockdown restrictio­ns. Coronaviru­s rules are now set to end on July 19, by which point the Government will pay 70 per cent of furlough wages, rather than 80 per cent.

Furlough lasting beyond the end of July will add at least £9 billion to its overall cost, at a time when the national debt is higher than 100 per cent of GDP for the first time since the 1960s.

By the middle of last month, 11.5million employees had been furloughed, at a cost of £64billion.

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