Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a plan to keep furloughed workers in their jobs when the scheme ends in October.
If employers keep workers in their jobs until January 2021 they will get a £1,000 bonus per employee.
The scheme could cost as much as £9bn if every furloughed worker is covered, the chancellor told MPs.
It is part of a package to prevent mass unemployment as the coronavirus crisis hits the economy.
He said leaving the furlough scheme open would give people “false hope” that they will have a job to return to.
But he said he would “never accept unemployment as an inevitable outcome”.
The chancellor also announced a £2bn “kickstart scheme” to create more jobs for young people.
The fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.
Mr Sunak also announced a temporary stamp duty holiday to stimulate the property market.
This would exempt the first £500,000 of all property sales from the tax.
The chancellor outlined a number of other measures in the build-up to his statement, including:
- Vouchers of up to £5,000 for energy-saving home improvements as part of a wider £3bn plan to cut emissions
- A pledge to provide 30,000 new traineeships for young people in England, giving firms £1,000 for each new work experience place they offer
- A £1.6bn package of loans and grants for the arts and heritage sector
- The doubling of front line staff at job centres, as well as an extra £32m for recruiting extra careers advisers and £17m for work academies in England
- Employers will not have to pay any tax on coronavirus swab tests provided for their staff
Details of how the package will be paid for – through borrowing and possible tax rises – are likely to be unveiled in the chancellor’s Autumn Budget.