The Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme has been hailed as an “extraordinary measure” by the government to keep millions of hospitality staff on the payroll – though it was warned it could be rendered meaningless if a forfeiture moratorium is not achieved this week.

The government grant will reimburse employers for 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Backdated to 1 March, it will be open for an initial three months but extended ‘for longer if necessary’

The Chancellor has placed no limit on the amount of funding available for the scheme, saying: “We will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary.”

All UK businesses are eligible for the scheme, which will be administered by HMRC, and will require employers to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers’.

The grant is a reimbursement to the employer, so the employer will make the wage/ salary payment to the furloughed worker and then be reimbursed by HMRC.

London Union’s Jonathan Downey, who has been lobbying the government alongside UK Hospitality on the issue, said: “The new Job Retention Scheme is an extraordinary measure - an incredible attempt to keep millions of people on the payroll. It requires considerable risk-taking and support from businesses and boards.

“To ensure companies can step up they must have a lease forfeiture moratorium. Without it, every other exceptional measure taken so far, will be meaningless in the unprecedented effort to save millions of livelihoods. It could keep over £1bn of cash in companies - to pay people under the scheme before HMRC reimbursement at the end of April.”

While welcomed as a lifesaver for the industry, there are a number of questions being raised about the scheme.

These include specifics around working hours and average wage calculations, if tronc is included, if the grant amount is taxable or not, and if those who have already have been made redundant can be re-hired and put on to the furloughed payroll.

Meanwhile there are concerns that smaller business may not have the cash to fund payroll and participate in the scheme, leading to further questions about how long it will take to be reimbursed.