Firms that have furloughed staff will be given a £1,000 bonus to bring them back into work.
Speaking during a ‘mini budget’ announcement at lunchtime, the Chancellor said the jobs retention bonus could cost up to £9 billion if all furloughed workers are retained.
He unveiled the measure as part of an emergency package of support to help keep people in work following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Describing the move as “A plan for jobs’, Mr Sunak said: “While we can’t protect every job, one of the most important things we can do to prevent unemployment is to get as many people as possible from furlough back to their job.”
The furlough scheme winds down in October and the Government is attempting to avoid widespread redundancies as state support is withdrawn.
There are conditions to the bonus. To be paid the £1,000, firms must continuously employ their staff at least until January 2021, on an average of at least £520 a month.
Sunak said: “Our message to business is clear: if you stand by your workers, we will stand by you.”
The Chancellor also announced a £2 billion scheme of taxpayer-funded work placements for 16-to-24-year-olds on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, and a £111 million programme to encourage traineeships and work experience.
However BIRA, parent body to the Pet Product Retail Association, described the mini budget as a disappointment, claiming it did not directly help retail.
The body was concerned there was no VAT cut for retailers in general and no changes to National Insurance.
BIRA CEO Andrew Goodacre said: “We welcome the various initiatives to bring younger people into work and the support for the hospitality sector.
“However there needs to be thought given to how consumer demand is stimulated on the high street or many businesses will close and jobs lost.”