The Chancellor has made an unexpected announcement that the furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021.

The statement also says that the government will be “continuing to contribute 80% towards wages” throughout this period. This is a significant change in stance as the government had previously indicated there would be a review of the scheme in January with an assessment of whether employers should be asked to contribute more towards furlough pay from 1 February.

This has been brought forward to give businesses certainty to help them plan throughout the winter. There will also be an extension to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant, with a fourth grant being made available from February to April 2021.

The Chancellor has also confirmed that access to the government-backed business loan schemes will be extended to the end of March.

There will be a budget on 3 March which will set out the next stage of the government’s plans to tackle the virus and protect jobs.