A former business secretary has warned that some people on furlough are avoiding going back to work due to being “terrified” of returning to the office or because furlough has been “great” for them.
Conservative MP Dame Andrea Leadsom said some businesses in her South Northamptonshire constituency 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’.”
She added that the consequence could be a slowing of the country’s ability to “bounce back” from the pandemic economically.
She said: “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.”
The Government’s furlough scheme was introduced in March last year and currently allows businesses affected by the pandemic the ability to keep workers on with an 80% wage subsidy from the state.
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.
Additional reporting by PA.