Unite has called on the government to say it will expand its leave program or face the opening of “redundancy valves” in the UK.
Many workers can expect a “miserable Christmas” without targeted support for employers, the union warned.
The government leave program will end on October 31.
A Treasury spokesperson said the government “has not shied away from acting creatively and effectively to support jobs and we will continue to do so.”
Wednesday marks 45 days before the end of the leave scheme, the same time that employers must give for notice of termination.
The Unite union said on Wednesday that without “a clear and urgent sign” from the government that it is responding to calls to extend the program, it fears “employers facing short-term struggles will issue layoff notices.”
The government has been urged by MPs, business groups, unions and political opponents to continue the leave program, in which workers on leave receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of 2,500 £ per month.
The scheme, which cost more than £ 35bn, was initially funded by the government, but companies started contributing wages in September after the scheme began to dissolve.
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Last week, the Special Treasury Committee said the government should consider a targeted expansion of the program.
In the first week of September, manufacturers warned of a second wave of job cuts without extensions, and industry group CBI said a replacement was needed to avoid a “cliff face.”
On Monday, the TUC said Chancellor Rishi Sunak should act to prevent a “tsunami” of job losses.
Labor leader Keir Starmer on Tuesday called for the program to be replaced.
Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said Wednesday that a government signal on a targeted expansion of the program “would put a floor to struggling employers working hard to stabilize in the face of immense challenges.”
“With our competing nations announcing the extension or modification of their job retention programs, we call on your government to recognize the need for UK businesses and workers to receive similar support,” wrote Mr McCluskey in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A spokeswoman said Unite wanted to see support for sectors such as manufacturing, aviation and aerospace infrastructure, and hospitality.
But in August, the government’s plan to end the regime was backed by Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, who said it was important for policymakers to help workers “move forward” and not. not keep them in unproductive jobs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said extending the program would only keep people “in suspended animation”.
The government has repeatedly rejected calls for an extension of the regime, saying it achieved its goal of cushioning the economy during the coronavirus crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said his priority was to find new ways to protect jobs.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “The leave program has done what it was designed to do – save jobs and help people get back to work.”
The spokesperson said the government had made “unprecedented interventions” including companies receiving £ 1,000 for every worker on leave still employed in January, holidays on business rates, VAT cuts and the Kickstart program, which gives young people work experience.
“We have not been shy about acting creatively and effectively to support jobs and will continue to do so as we recover from this crisis,” the spokesperson added.
The coronavirus job retention program was hailed by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) in July as “an undeniable success in terms of keeping employees on leave attached to their jobs”, with 9.5 million people at the time.
But employers predicted more than 300,000 layoffs in June and July as the effects of the coronavirus continued to hit the economy.
Companies continued to remove staff from payrolls as they prepared for the end of the program.
Around 695,000 British workers have left the payroll of British companies since March.