The government's furlough scheme received claims for almost 70,000 jobs within the first half hour of going live as businesses scramble to pay employees during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live this morning (April 20), offering cash grants to employers which have had to furlough employees as a result of the pandemic and associated lockdown.
The scheme covers up to 80 per cent of an employee's regular wages and was last week extended by chancellor Rishi Sunak to run until the end of June, having originally been intended to last until May.
Speaking with the BBC's Today programme on Radio 4 this morning Jim Harra, chief executive of HMRC, revealed the scheme had received claims for 67,000 jobs within the first 30 minutes of going live.
Mr Harra said HMRC would process the claims within six working days, with those employers who had submitted a claim today set to receive their grants on April 28.
He added: "Any employer who pays employees and deducts tax on PAYE can make a claim under this scheme in respect of any employees they have had to send home on paid leave because there is no work for them to do as a result of the coronavirus.
"HMRC has scaled its IT system to cope with the maximum number of claims it could receive. There are well over 2m PAYE schemes and our system is big enough to handle a claim from every one of them."
The HMRC boss said roughly 30 per cent of employees in the UK, equivalent to nine million individuals, could benefit from the scheme.
But Mr Harra said the government had not published any estimate of overall claim numbers as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and global lockdown.
In an update on the government website this morning Mr Sunak said: "Our unprecedented job retention scheme will protect millions of jobs across the country and is now up and running.
"It’s vital that our economy gets up and running again as soon as it’s safe – and this scheme will allow that to happen."
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