Some people have enjoyed being on furlough so much that they don’t want to go back to work, a Conservative MP has claimed.
Former business secretary Dame Andrea Leadsom also argued the Government scheme to pay workers during the pandemic has left others ‘terrified’ to return to the office.
She said the issues were having major economic consequences in her Northamptonshire constituency, and around the rest of the UK.
Businesses are struggling to get employees to return to work because ‘people have, to be perfectly frank, become used to being on furlough’, Dame Andrea told BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions.
‘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”.
‘So there’s that issue, the mental health issue, the fear of it. For other people, it’s like, “well actually 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 I’m going to retire early”.’
The politician said the UK’s economic bounce back was being damaged by the refusal of some to return to work.
‘If we can’t get our economy to bounce back then we can’t start to pay this huge bill that we’ve already incurred for this lockdown, and that’s critical at this point,’ she said.
The furlough scheme was first introduced in March last year and currently pays 80% of an employee’s wages so that companies whose profits have been hit by the pandemic can keep people on.
It is due to taper off from the end of this month, moving to a 70% state subsidy supported by a 10% employer contribution in July, tapering further before ending completely in September.
Dame Andrea’s comments have provoked much debate on social media. Broadcaster Julia Hartley Brewer tweeted: ‘This is undoubtedly true. Most people aren’t well paid and many don’t like their jobs. If you’re on low income in a miserable job, getting 80% pay *not* to work is a pretty good deal.’
But people who had been furloughed said they’d struggled to survive on 80% of their salary and had been living in a ‘constant state of anxiety’ because they didn’t know if they would have a job at the end of it.
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