Furloughed workers may return part-time as the Chancellor looks to end the scheme as soon as possible.

More than six million people are currently receiving furlough payment due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is said to have cost our economy around £8 billion.

Business secretary Alok Sharma and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have spoken to industry leaders and trade unions.

It is now believed the government will announce a scaling down of the scheme which could come as soon as Tuesday.

Craig Beaumont, director of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We really hope to see progress made on a part-time furlough because smaller businesses in particular benefit from being able to quote for new work, keep in touch with employees and pay their invoices.”

The Financial Times says Mr Sharma had "positive signals around flexibility of the scheme" in the discussions.

But the original plan was to use furlough until the end of June. It currently subsidises 80 per cent of furloughed employees' wages, up to £2,500 every month.

The employees asked to return part-time will only work in sectors deemed vital to protect kept on the furlough scheme, The Sun says.

So, those at pubs, restaurants, hotels and the tourism industry will likely remain furloughed for the time being.

Businesses in these industries may be able to apply for an extension.

People are ignoring the lockdown to flock to the park
With staff off work, reports of people ignoring the lockdown in parks are increasing

Unions have warned they might not recommend their millions-strong membership to resume their roles if safety is not assured.

"The trade union movement wants to be able to recommend the Government's back-to-work plans," Unison, Unite, the GMB, Usdaw and the Trades Union Congress wrote in a letter to the Observer.

"But for us to do that we need to ensure that ministers have listened and that we stay safe and save lives at work too."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer agreed the furlough scheme could not "go on infinitely" and urged the Chancellor to create a category of "semi-furloughed" people who can work part time.

Garden centres are, though, expected to be allowed to reopen across England and Wales as soon as Monday.

Boris Johnson is believed to be confirming this tonight, in addition to the other small measures the government has agreed to take in a bid to ease lockdown.