Thursday October 21, 2021
For the road ahead

Unions call for permanent short-time working scheme to protect jobs in times of economic crisis and change


Unions, including URTU, are today calling on the government to establish a permanent short-time working scheme as "a post pandemic legacy" to help protect working people through periods of future economic change. 

The furlough scheme, while far from perfect, is one of the major successes of government policy during the pandemic, protecting millions of jobs and livelihoods. 

On the back of the success of the furlough scheme, the government should build on furlough with a permanent short-time working scheme to make the labour market more resilient in times of change and crisis.   

Case for a short-time working scheme 

In a new TUC report, Beyond furlough: why the UK needs a permanent short-time work scheme, the TUC says the case for a short-time working scheme is clear, citing significant benefits for workers, firms and government. The union body says for workers, a short-time working scheme would: 

  • reduce the risk of workers losing their jobs in times of crisis  

  • protect workers' incomes - particularly as short-time working schemes are usually more generous than unemployment benefits.  

  • prevent widening inequalities - protecting women, disabled workers and BME workers who tend to lose their jobs first in a recession due to structural discrimination   

And for the government, it would: 

  • protect against long-term unemployment, and the subsequent devastating impacts on communities 

  • help stabilise the economy, and encourage a faster economic recovery as workers continue to spend their wages 

  • save money, as the cost of furlough schemes is often below the cost of unemployment benefits, particularly where costs are shared with employers. 

For employers, such a scheme would produce significant savings on redundancy, training and hiring costs, as they enable firms to keep skilled workers on their books. 

The UK is an anomaly among developed nations in having no permanent short-time working scheme to deal with periods of industrial disruption and weak demand.  

In the OECD, 23 countries had short-time working schemes in place before the coronavirus pandemic, including in Germany, Japan and many US states. 

You can download the report at Beyond furlough: why the UK needs a permanent short-time work scheme 

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