Around one in eight workers were still covered by the coronavirus job retention scheme as it began to be phased out at the start of August, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

Between 27 July and 9 August 2020, 12% of workers were on furlough leave - but that figure rose to 71% for the 4% of businesses that were temporarily closed or had paused trading.

Among employees who were furloughed, 67% were receiving top-ups to their pay from their employers.

ONS statistics released earlier this month revealed that the Government's job retention schemes helped to keep the employment rate high in July 2020, but that the number of employees on payrolls had decreased by 730,000 compared to March 2020.

Responding to those figures, Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said:

"The option of a meaningful extension to the furloughing initiative should be kept open, especially now local lockdowns are a fact of life and a meaningful second spike in coronavirus infections is possible."

Under the latest phase of the furlough scheme, which began on 1 August 2020, the Government continues to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough, but employers are required to cover national insurance and pension contributions.

From September, employers will begin to pay 10% of wages for the hours an employee is on furlough, rising to 20% in October.

Despite pressure to extend the scheme, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said it cannot "carry on indefinitely" and has confirmed it will come to an end on 31 October.

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