Dame Andrea Leadsom: People Have Become Used to Being on Furlough

June 20, 2021 Updated: June 20, 2021

A former business secretary has warned some people on furlough are avoiding going back to work because it has been “great” for them, while others are “terrified” of returning to the office.

Conservative MP Dame Andrea Leadsom said some businesses in her South Northamptonshire constituency are struggling to get employees to return to work because “people have, to be perfectly frank, become used to being on furlough.”

Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s “Any Questions” programme: “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.’”

Leadsom also warned of the economic consequences of the issue, telling the broadcaster that people refusing to return to work hinders the economy’s ability to “bounce back.”

She added: “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.”

The government’s furlough scheme was introduced in March last year and currently allows businesses affected by the pandemic the ability to keep workers on with an 80 percent wage subsidy from the state.

It is due to taper off from the end of this month, moving to a 70 percent state subsidy supported by a 10 percent employer contribution in July, tapering further before ending completely in September.