Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been warned by leading business groups and trade unions that unless the furlough scheme is extended the country risks a period of mass unemployment.

As reported by The Guardian, groups including the TUC, have told the Chancellor that the economy is too fragile to end the wage subsidy scheme at the end of April.

France O’Grady, general secretary, TUC, said he should make an immediate announcement that furlough would remain in place until the end of the year, rather than waiting until the Budget.

While Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), called for an extension to the scheme to run until July.

“What one can’t do is say that once the vaccine rollout has happened, everything will be OK. That is not the case. You’ve got businesses in deep trouble, and still the possibility of flare ups in the virus. It’s not a case of just vaccinate and forget about it,” he was reported as saying.

Commenting, last week, on the latest statistics from HMRC on the usage of the government’s Job Retention Scheme, BCC co-executive director Hannah Essex said further action would be need in order to avoid “a damaging cliff edge” for jobs and livelihoods.

“The government must learn lessons from last October, where the delay in extending the scheme at a time of tightening restrictions helped drive redundancies to a record high,” said Essex. “Therefore, ministers should commit immediately to keeping the furlough scheme in place until a full opening of the economy is possible and at least until the end of July 2021.