Responding to the COVID-19 jobs crisis and beyond: building an evidence base for public policy


The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound effect on the UK labour market. The government sought to protect the labour market through the first national lockdown via the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS – also known as the furlough scheme).

A novel initiative in the context of UK labour market policy, the CJRS has offered employers wage support of up to 80 per cent to cover the furlough of workers. Evidence suggests the furlough scheme has been well received by business groups – including the Confederation of British Industry and the Trade Union Congress – and in financial terms it has constituted the most significant response by the government to the COVID-19 crisis.

Take-up of the scheme has been high, with nearly 10 million claims, and at the peak of the first lockdown nearly a third of the UK labour market was on furlough; helping to prevent a large-scale increase in unemployment.

The CJRS has gone through a number of changes, revisions and extensions. It will now continue until September 2021.

Uncertainty around the scheme has impacted employers’ planning. As the scheme has changed, redundancy levels have started to increase in the UK. Problematically, there is no evidence-base to guide policy makers, in terms of employers’ use of furlough, as part of the CJRS or outside it, their experiences and expectations of its effects, their preferences for job support, or their future employment plans beyond furloughing. There are surveys of workers’ experiences, but no robust employer data to help inform a more strategic and coordinated approach to policy making to help protect employment through and beyond the crisis.

In our research, we will conduct the first national survey of employers’ use of furlough and the CJRS in the UK.  The sample will be 2000 employers in the UK, including firms of all sizes and across all sectors. The survey will explore firms’ responses to COVID-19, their perceptions and attitudes towards planning, recruitment, retention and HRM, and their use of furlough and the CJRS. The survey will be distributed in February 2021.

Research overview

Ongoing research in CERIC is exploring employers’ job retention strategies during and beyond the crisis.

The employers’ survey will generate vital new primary evidence on the use of furlough and the CJRS, generating an evidence base of significant interest to policy makers and external beneficiaries.

Publications and outputs

A workshop reporting the first findings from the survey will take place on Wednesday 31 March 2021, through CERIC.

This work was supported with funding from Research England QR-SPF (01/12/20 – 31/03/21).

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