Coronavirus: Majority of NI manufacturers put workers on job retention scheme

By John Campbell
BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

WelderImage source, Getty Images

More than 80% of manufacturing businesses in NI have put workers on the government’s job retention scheme, an industry survey suggests.

The scheme allows employers to temporarily lay off staff while the government pays 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month.

Manufacturing NI surveyed 206 businesses this week.

A quarter of respondents said they had put their whole workforce on the scheme.

Manufacturing NI said the sector in Northern Ireland "is largely closed down".

'Guarantee payments'

The organisation also called on the government to guarantee that those who have already taken the decision to furlough, or temporarily lay off, staff will qualify for the scheme.

"It is critical that the government stand over their commitment to support all firms who took their advice since 20 March and guarantee the furlough payments," Manufacturing NI said.

"To renege on this jeopardises the short and long-term future of a huge part of the sector."

Earlier this week, HMRC said they aimed to have the scheme open to applications on 20 April with payments being made on 30 April.

The survey also suggests that more than 10% of manufacturers have repurposed or are working collaboratively to support the NHS and others to tackle the virus.

A smaller survey by the Construction Employers Federation also suggests the majority of building firms will use the scheme.

Of the 77 companies surveyed last week, all of them said they would use it to some extent.

Almost two-thirds of firms said they had already closed all their sites.