Nearly a quarter of the UK's private sector workforce has been furloughed, according to data from HMRC.
The department tweeted that over six million workers from 800,000 companies have been furloughed as of 3 May, with claims amounting to £8bn so far.
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - which launched 20 April - the government will pay 80 per cent of an employee's wages up to £2,500.
The Job Retention Scheme launched on 20 April.— HM Revenue & Customs (@HMRCgovuk) May 4, 2020
By midnight 3 May a total of:
➡️ 6.3m jobs furloughed *
➡️ 800K employers furloughing **
➡️ Total value of claims £8bn
Apply for a grant to cover the wages of your furloughed staff now: https://t.co/bx1Nszshsr pic.twitter.com/29n9h0RB2k
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak recently extended the scheme to the end of June, as the government plans its lockdown exit.
However, Sunak told ITV news recently that there is "no cliff edge" with regards to a hard deadline for the scheme, but warned that it could become as financially onerous as the NHS.
"I am working as we speak to figure out the most effective way to wind down the scheme and ease people back into work in a measured way," he said.
"But as some scenarios have suggested we are potentially spending as much on the furlough scheme as we do on the NHS, for example. Now, clearly that is not a sustainable situation."
Sunak's comments align with data revealed last week by the Office of Budget Responsibility which estimated that the scheme will cost the exchequer £39bn for the period between March and June.
The government is now considering a number of ways to offset the financial impact of the scheme, including cutting its subsidy of employee wages from 80 per cent to 60 per cent, the Evening Standard reported.
Toorsten Bell, CEO of thinktank Resolution Foundation, which recommended the jobs scheme, said that the 6.3 million jobs supported by the scheme show in "stark terms the scale of the economic shutdown".
"If this kind of volume of workers stay on the scheme for several months the cost will run into the tens of billions of pounds. And that is a cost very much worth paying," he stated.
"Even despite mass furloughing, unemployment is still soaring, with over two million new claims for benefits coming through.
"This should remind us how badly needed the retention scheme is, but also that we are likely to be living with the legacy of high unemployment that coronavirus has given Britain, long after it has been phased out."
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