UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today (Thursday) extended the furlough scheme until the end of March 2021, with employees to receive up to 80 per cent of their salaries.

The news comes as England goes into its second lockdown until December to slow the spread of COVID-19. The scheme, which will particularly benefit the live events industry, was originally set to run until October, but was previously extended to December 2.

In addition, the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) for freelancers has been extended, with a third grant calculated at 80 per cent of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.

Sunak said: “I’ve always said I would do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK, and that has meant adapting our support as the path of the virus has changed. It’s clear the economic effects are much longer lasting for businesses than the duration of any restrictions, which is why we have decided to go further with our support.

“Extending furlough and increasing our support for the self-employed will protect millions of jobs and give people and businesses the certainty they need over what will be a difficult winter.”

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “While the crisis deepens and we move into a national lockdown for 28 days, we welcome the somewhat belated furlough update until March next year. The furlough scheme will absolutely help preserve jobs within the sector, but the challenge still remains, where there is still a considerable void in financial support for night time economy businesses, will there be jobs to go back to?”

He added: “Commercial rents are also a big concern for our sector, where the government has decided to push the issue further down the line with the forfeiture moratorium running until December 31, but business suffering under thousands of pounds of rent arrears.

“We appreciate that safety is paramount, but at some point we’ve got to consider the human element here and the immense pressure that individuals, venue owners, staff and freelancers are under at the moment given the current financial, economic, cultural and social wellbeing environments that are being presented by government, particularly around our sector.”