The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme applied from 1 March 2020 and ended on 30 September 2021. The scheme provided grants to employers so they could retain and continue to pay staff during coronavirus related lockdowns, by furloughing employees at up to 80% of their wages.

11.7 million employee jobs were furloughed through the scheme, at a cost of £70 billion.

At the end of the scheme, at 30 September 2021, 1.16 million jobs were on furlough, which was 4% of eligible jobs. 21% of employers had at least one member of staff on furlough. The number of furloughed jobs fell by 193,600 from the end of August to the end of September.

Furlough levels largely rose and fell with changes in lockdown restrictions and changes to the CJRS scheme. The number of jobs furloughed peaked in June 2020, fell throughout the summer and then increased in November and again in January 2021 after national lockdowns were introduced. They then fell steadily from March 2021.



Some sectors have been much more affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and this is reflected in furlough levels. At the end of the scheme, the three sectors with the highest furlough rates were the Other service activities, with 11% (55,900) of eligible jobs on furlough, the Arts, entertainment and recreation sector with 10% (48,000) and the Accommodation and food services sector, with 9% (159,400).

All other sectors had rates of 7% or less.

Age and gender

At the end of the scheme, jobs held by those aged 65 and over were more likely to be furloughed than those held by younger workers, while the same proportion of jobs held by men and women were on furlough.

Full and partial furlough

From 1 July 2020, the furlough scheme was made more flexible so that furloughed employees could be brought back part-time. Over summer 2020, the number of partially furloughed jobs rose as fully furloughed jobs fell, as lockdown restrictions eased, and employees were more able to go to work some of the time. The announcement of the November lockdown caused a much sharper increase in full furlough, and this happened again when the January 2021 lockdown began. 

Impact on the labour market

It is clear that many of the workers on furlough would have been made redundant if the scheme had not been in place, and that the CJRS has limited the impact of the pandemic on the labour market.

There was an increase of 257,000 payrolled employees in November compared to October. This suggests that there won’t be a big increase in unemployment, despite the scheme ending. 88% of respondents to a Resolution Foundation survey who were on furlough in September 2021 were in work in the first half of October.

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