Dame Andrea Leadsom - People have become used to being on furlough

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.

Former business secretary Conservative MP Dame Andrea Leadsom. PIC: PA
Former business secretary Conservative MP Dame Andrea Leadsom. PIC: PA

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".

Dame Andrea told BBC Radio 4's Any Questions: "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'.

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"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'."

Dame Andrea 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% wage subsidy from the state.

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