Sixty charity leaders urge Chancellor to change rules on furloughed workers volunteering

A letter to Rishi Sunak says sector staff who have been furloughed should be allowed to volunteer for their own organisations

A volunteer from Ealing Soup Kitchen prepares food (Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
A volunteer from Ealing Soup Kitchen prepares food (Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

A group of 60 charity leaders has called on the government to allow voluntary sector staff who have been furloughed to volunteer for their own organisations.

A letter to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, says the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme brings welcome relief for many employers but does not meet the needs of the voluntary sector.

Many charities are facing huge demand for their services at a time when their income from fundraising or trading has been vastly reduced, meaning they face difficult decisions about whether to make use of the scheme, which pays employers 80 per cent, or up to £2,500, of the wages of employees who would otherwise be let go.

Furloughed employees are able to volunteer, but not for their own organisations

“We acknowledge the need to minimise potential abuse of the CJRS,” the letter says. “But we cannot pause our work at a time of national crisis where charitable services are needed more than ever.

“Recognising a requirement to provide immediate financial relief to charities to ensure their very survival, whilst preventing the use of furloughed resources to advance charitable objectives, is contradictory.

The letter, which has been organised by Ed Cervantes-Watson, chief executive of the young people’s technology charity First UK, has been signed by representatives from a range of charities, including Variety, the Children’s Charity, Blood Cancer UK and Aberdeen Foyer.

“Furloughing may protect businesses and our wider economy, but for charities it risks bringing the critical work of 365,000 UK employees, providing vital services to those in need, to an abrupt halt.”

The letter asks that furloughed employees of registered charities should be allowed to volunteer for their organisations providing the work continues to advance the public benefit provided by the organisation, that the individuals receive no additional remuneration or benefit and the charity can demonstrate it was required to furlough the employee because of financial stress.

About 500 people have signed a petition on the parliament website calling for government to allow furloughed employees to volunteer for their own charities.

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