The government will pay up to 80% of wages for workers' at risk of being laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic, the chancellor has announced.
Any employer in the country will be able to apply to HMRC for payments of up to £2,500 per worker per month - just above the median income - Rishi Sunak said on Friday.
The scheme will be open for three months initially and payments will be backdated to 1 March, the chancellor said, as he laid out an unprecedented raft of measures to support jobs.
Grants will be available for "as many jobs as necessary" he said before also announcing £1bn of support for renters, tax relief for the self-employed and increases in universal credit payments.
It came as pubs, bars, restaurants and leisure centres shut down in the latest intensification of social distancing measures designed to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Those restrictions, while necessary to protect public health, will be disastrous for many businesses and jobs as economic activity slows down drastically.
The chancellor said: "I have a responsibility to make sure that we protect, as far as possible, people's jobs and incomes.
"Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the government is going to step in and help pay people's wages.
"We're setting up a new coronavirus job retention scheme. Any employer in the country small or large, charitable or non-profit, will be eligible for the scheme.
"Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll rather than being laid off."