Furloughing – making the most of the scheme while we can

03 June 2020
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Right now the biggest decision for any charity leader has to be how can we get the greatest benefit from the furloughing scheme before it closes, says Peter Reeve, Chair of the Charity HR Network.

Like most people, even as an HR professional, before March I had never heard of furloughing. The concept of saying to people, even long-serving ones, sorry we just don’t need you at the moment and being able to stand them down was an entirely alien one. The idea that the government would then pick up the costs of that is to use the word of the day – unprecedented.

The government backed furlough scheme allows us to do just that. As the income of the person involved is largely protected (they will get at least 80% of their normal pay) it cuts right through all of the red-tape that we HR people seem to enjoy so much!

Last week the chancellor extended the coverage of the scheme until the end of October 2020, they have also created the option of part-time furloughing people from 1 July.

During most of that time the government will continue to pay up to 70% of staff salary costs. For most charities that represents a significant contribution to their costs and so it is important that we make the most use of the scheme that we can.

The scheme for fundraisers

For fundraisers the balance is undoubtedly a difficult one and ROI becomes a very real factor to consider. If, for the next few months any individual fundraiser is not generating income of £2,500 then, in theory, it would be better to furlough them. You will need to move quickly as anyone new that you would want to place on furlough needs to be registered by 10 June, so that they can have had the required three-week period of furlough by the end of the month when the current scheme ends.

I am aware that is an incredibly simplistic analysis of the situation, it ignores lost relationships, team dynamics and the groundwork that is being done to maximise income opportunities later in the year, or even into next. However, one thing that appears to be certain is that the furlough scheme has cost the country an extraordinary amount of money – quotes are in excess of £100bn – and that is not sustainable. On that basis, if you and your senior leadership teams are concerned about the financial sustainability of your organisation then the furlough scheme has to be a fundamental part of those plans.

We can, and will, talk about how you support furloughed staff, communicating with them helping to still feel part of the cause as you move forward. These are all difficult to get right and bringing people back when they may have been way from colleagues some times for months is tricky, particularly as the world of work seems to have fundamentally shifted overnight. I look back fondly on arguments about car parking provision and agile-working. However, at this precise moment the biggest decision for any charity leader or organisation has to be how can we get the greatest benefit from the furloughing scheme before it closes. For fundraisers especially, who are the long-term guardians of the charities income, it is a very difficult decision about whether the best thing they can do to secure the future of the charity is to briefly step away from it.

Peter Reeve
Peter Reeve
Head of HR for the MND Association and Chair of the Charity HR Network
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