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UK to pay wages through September as employees begin to return to work

UK to pay wages through September as employees begin to return to work
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The U.K. plans to continue monthly payments for workers on leave due to the COVID-19 outbreak for another four months through September, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Tuesday.

The plan covers out-of-work recipients with 80 percent of their monthly wages up to 2,500 pounds, according to the BBC.

"I'm extending the scheme because I won't give up on the people who rely on it," Sunak said. 

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"Our message today is simple: we stood behind Britain's workers and businesses as we came into this crisis, and we will stand behind them as we come through the other side," he added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued at stay-at-home order in late March barring U.K. citizens from leaving their homes except for necessary reasons. The order also shuttered all nonessential businesses including shops, bars and places of worship. 

As a result, millions of U.K. citizens have been out of work for the past few months. 

Around 7.5 million people, or a quarter of the country's workforce, are covered by the plan, costing the British government nearly 14 billion pounds a month, according to the news source. 

The estimated cost for the plan by October could be up to 100 billion pounds, with approximately 935,000 businesses signed up for the plan, according to Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies. 

The plan has reportedly generated criticism and concern that some recipients could become "addicted" to furlough payments, although Sunak rejected these claims.

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"Nobody who is on the furlough scheme wants to be on this scheme," Sunak added.

"People up and down this country believe in the dignity of their work, going to work, providing for their families. It's not their fault their business has been asked to close or asked to stay at home," he said.

The chancellor requested that companies "start sharing" the cost of the plan beginning in August, allowing flexibility for employers to bring workers back part-time, according to the report.

Groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce have praised the plan's extension, calling it a "significant relief" for the country's workforce as well as employers, according to the BBC.