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Pollwatch: Almost half of Brits support extending furlough in its current format beyond October

Chris Hopkins Political Research Director 17/09/2020

After what will be almost eight months supporting businesses and employees, we take a look at how the British public feel about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme coming to an end on the 31st October

It’s most likely to be the younger generations who are bearing the brunt of the illegal furlough work (52%)

Almost half (45%) of Brits would support an extension of the furlough scheme as it currently stands further than its end date of 31st October, a significant chunk more than the 32% who would oppose it continuing as is past that date.

The most popular of all options we proposed to respondents is to continue the furlough scheme beyond the 31st October but in a reduced format, for example purely for those in critical roles (48%). Almost three in ten (28%) say they support ending the furlough scheme at the end of October full stop.

One of the key agreements of furlough is that the person affected cannot work for their employer in their usual capacity, and while 70% say they haven’t, the picture is a little different for others.

Three in ten (29%) say their employer has made them work during the period of time that they have been furloughed, with some saying the same amount if not more than normal, but the bulk (18%) saying it has been less than they normally would.

Males are far more likely to have been asked to work by their employer during furlough than women (44% vs 13%) and it’s most likely to be the younger generations who are bearing the brunt of the illegal furlough work (52%).

Our new data shows that asking employees to work during furlough isn’t the only way the furlough scheme’s rules have been broken.

According to the Independent, the government believes it may have paid out up to £3.5bn in wrong or fraudulent claims for the furlough scheme over the past six months. In fact, a senior civil servant has disclosed that his staff believe between 5-10% of furlough money might have gone to the wrong places.

Several businesses such as ASOS and IKEA have announced that they will be repaying any furlough cash that had been allocated to them over the previous couple of months due to a skyrocket in sales – but can we trust other businesses to be so forthcoming?

Our new data shows that the public don’t have faith in employers who have received erroneous or fraudulent funds to furlough their staff to actually pay back the money to HMRC. Over half (51%) distrust that companies will come forward and hold their hands up at all. Men are more likely to trust that they will come forward (21%) vs women, who are more sceptical (12%). It also looks as though the older you get, the less faith you have – almost seven in ten (69%) of those aged 65+ don’t believe employers will pay back the money vs 27% of those ages 18-24.

Despite the concerns around wrong pay outs and the impact that may have on taxpayers’ money, as we’ve seen, the general public are still relatively positive about the furlough scheme as a whole.