The TUC is encouraging the government to create a new job protection and upskilling programme as the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) comes to a close next month.
Following Bank of England predictions that 2.5 million people could be out of work by the end of the year, the TUC warned the clock is ticking to avoid a “tsunami of unemployment” in Autumn.
It said the government risked throwing away the good work achieved by the JRS and has therefore created a new short-time working scheme designed to prevent mass unemployment and help firms bounce back after the crisis.
Short-time working is where employees agree to or are forced to accept a reduction in working time and pay.
The Job Protection and Upskilling Deal also focuses on helping workers whose jobs are at risk to develop the skills they need for the future.
The TUC recommended businesses receive a 70% subsidy from the government provided they bring back every worker on the scheme for a minimum proportion of their normal working hours.
Any worker whose employer needs them to work for less than 50% of their normal hours would receive free reskilling training.
Employees would also receive 80% of their salary for the hours they are not in work, including when they are training.
Companies would only get help if they can demonstrate they have been hit by coronavirus restrictions, pay their fair share of tax in the UK, boost workers’ rights, pay staff fairly and do not pay dividends while using the scheme.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary said working people must not bear the brunt of the recession.
“Protecting decent jobs with fair pay is how we recover. The job retention scheme showed what government can do during a crisis. It saved many people from the dole queue and stopped good companies going to the wall.”
Ben Willmott, head of policy at the CIPD, said there was need for the government to consider additional support for employers once the furlough scheme had closed.
“The sort of short-time working scheme proposed by the TUC has a proven track record of supporting employment in other countries and could help employers hardest hit by COVID-19 to continue to minimise redundancies, particularly in the event of significant local outbreaks or a full blown national second wave over the winter.
“The focus on upskilling is also crucial at this time but many workers who would fall outside the remit of the TUC’s proposed scheme also need support to train so we think that it would make more sense to significantly expand the National Retraining Scheme for this purpose.”
The plan also has built-in contingencies for companies hit by local lockdowns, with companies in this situation automatically qualifying for help through the scheme.
In Austria, unions and employers have extended their coronavirus short-time work scheme for another six months and in France, this will be extended to June 2022.
Agata Nowakowska, area vice president at Skillsoft, said a short-time working model and retraining could help us better prepare for jobs of the future.
“As the war for talent intensifies in the post-pandemic circumstances, employee development and talent pooling will become increasingly vital to building a modern workforce that’s adaptable and flexible.
“Addressing and easing workplace role transitions will require new training models and approaches that include on-the-job training and opportunities that support and signpost workers to opportunities to upgrade their skills.”