THE Spanish government has extended its ERTE furlough scheme yet again to provide help for businesses struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz announced on Thursday, that the scheme, which was launched at the height of the first wave last April, would now be extended beyond May 31.

Workers from small and medium-sized companies have benefited most from the scheme, Diaz said in a press conference adding that the government would now negotiate with unions and employers’ representatives over the ERTE conditions from June.

“We will keep doing that from May 31, in a similar formula to the current one,” she added, without saying how much longer the scheme had been extended.

Spain’s temporary unemployment scheme known as ERTE was launched in a bid to avoid massive layoffs at firms hit by the lockdown introduced in an attempt to curb coronavirus infections as the pandemic took hold in Spain.

It provides furloughed workers with 70 percent of their base salary for the first six months, before dropping to 50 percent for the following months.    

Those companies that take part in the scheme are banned from making layoffs in the six months after it ends.

At its peak, 3.4 million workers benefited from furlough conditions and as businesses reopened many returned to work.

Spain’s average unemployment rate during 2020 came in just below 16 percent after the number of people registered as jobless rose to 3.89 million in 2020, the first increase since 2013.

During the last year,  401,000 people have lost their jobs and 743,000 workers have been furloughed.

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