A fifth of sector staff have been furloughed, say government figures

Responding to a DCMS Committee inquiry into the effects of coronavirus on the sector, the government says that 164,000 jobs had been furloughed as of 3 May

Almost a fifth of all voluntary sector employees have been furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic, government figures show.

The government’s response to the inquiry by MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee into the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak on the voluntary sector says that, as of 3 May, 164,000 jobs in the charity sector had been furloughed.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations said in its UK Civil Society Almanac 2019 that the voluntary sector employed 865,000 people as of June 2018, which means that about 19 per cent of employees have been put on furlough.

The government’s statement came in response to the DCMS Committee’s report, which last month called for ministers to set up a bespoke Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the voluntary sector and allow furloughed charity workers to volunteer for their own organisations.

The response rejects a standalone scheme for the sector and rules out furloughed charity employees being able to volunteer for their organisations.

“With regards to furloughed employees of charities being able to volunteer for their organisations, the guidance is clear that organisations cannot ask a furloughed employee to do any work that makes money or provides services for their organisation or any organisation linked or associated with their organisation,” the response says.

“The scheme is not designed to help charities or other organisations cut the cost of continuing to deliver essential services.”

The committee yesterday criticised the government for failing to take up its recommendations, accusing ministers of taking a “head-in-the-sand” approach to the voluntary sector.

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