FURLOUGH support is to be extended to businesses forced to close in local lockdowns, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.

The Job Support Scheme (JSS) will cover firms forced to shut up shop under restrictions imposed by any of the UK's four governments, paying out two thirds of an employee's wage up to a maximum of £2100 a month.

Cover will also be set up for businesses required to close their premises due to Covid rules this winter.

But grants will not be paid to employers left unable to operate for fewer than seven days consecutive days.

READ MORE: Covid in Scotland: First Minister defends ‘hard and painful' new restrictions

Small businesses with a rateable value of or below £15,000 can claim £1300 per month, with a £2000 limit for medium-sized operations with a rateable value between £15,000-£51,000 can claim £2,000 per month and a £3000 maximum available to larger companies.

Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been promised a £1.3 billion increase to their guaranteed funding for 2020-21 to allow them to “continue their response to Covid-19 including through similar measures if they wish”.

Sunak, said: “Throughout the crisis the driving force of our economic policy has not changed.

“I have always said that we will do whatever is necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods as the situation evolves.

“The expansion of the Job Support Scheme will provide a safety net for businesses across the UK who are required to temporarily close their doors, giving them the right support at the right time.”

Under the scheme, which will run for six months, employers will be asked to cover NICS and pension contributions.

Commenting, John Phillips, the acting general secretary of GMB union, said:  “Rishi Sunak has today served up a dish of support that is too unsubstantial, leaving many workers struggling to put food on the table. 

“In workplaces now forced to close, the imposition of an effective 33% pay cut will leave many without enough to live on and pay the bills, given how low wages were in the first place.  

“For all the promises of levelling up, this billionaire Chancellor will today be pushing many workers effectively below the minimum wage. 

“The knock on effect of these measures on local economies could be huge, with many dependent businesses in the supply chain escaping this raft of closures but not being eligible for a Job Support Scheme so poor, it is has been widely rebuffed by employers who have unsurprisingly not volunteered to pay 55% of wages for 33% hours.  

“This panic measure has not been properly thought through and leaves too many industries and workers left in limbo land and ineligible through no fault of their own.” 

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes gave a cautious welcome to the news, but said “some clarity still needed on what it covers in terms of health, transport and business support”.