The former business secretary warned people are reluctant to return to work because furlough has been “great” for them. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions, Dame Andrea said people were fearful of returning to work.
She said: “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’.”
The scheme, which has helped millions of people over the coronavirus pandemic, is able to cover up to 80% of an employee’s salary for the hours they cannot work up to £2,500 per month.
It was estimated 5.1 million people were on furlough in January but this has shrunk to around 3.4 million as of data aggregated in April.
However, experts have predicted there may be an unemployment bounce when the scheme ends in September.
Earlier this month, Dan Tomlinson, Senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “With around one-in-six young workers still on furlough at the end of April, today’s figures are a stark reminder of the risk of rising unemployment when the furlough scheme ends.
“The government must do all it can to ensure those workers find work as quickly as possible.”
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“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.”