Posted on the 28th March 2020
Written by Ed

Furlough for good – an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer

UK Charities risk grinding to a halt just as they are needed most. COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of our lives and society in ways we are only just beginning to contemplate. Measures intended to alleviate financial stress threaten to deplete charitable provision by precluding charity workers placed on ‘furlough’ from undertaking critical work on a voluntary basis for their organisation. 

In an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer we seek a relaxation of restrictions for furloughed charity workers so they may choose to volunteer for their charity and continue providing access to vital services where it is safe to do so.

. . .

To the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP,

Let charities support the nation – allow furloughed charity employees to volunteer for their organisation

Thank you for your leadership and the support promised to UK industry, business, the self-employed and charities in a time of such unprecedented need.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) brings welcome relief for employers but is not fully geared for the Third Sector.

Charities are needed now more than ever

Whilst it is important to minimise potential abuse of the CJRS and profit generation subsidised by taxpayers, well-meaning conditions preventing furloughed employees from undertaking work for their employer are not in the best interest of charities. Charities cannot and must not pause work at a time of national crisis where their services are needed more than ever.

Charities are non-profit making, mission-focused organisations serving beneficiaries, not shareholders. Recognising a requirement to provide immediate financial relief to charities ensuring their very survival, whilst precluding the use of furloughed resources to advance charitable objectives is contradictory.

Furlough falls short of a Third Sector lifeline

Furloughing may protect businesses and our wider economy, but for UK charities who spend £42bn annually providing vital services to those in need – it risks bringing the critical work of 827,000 employees (2.7% of the UK workforce) to an abrupt halt. Plunging the sector into disrepair and creating a void in society.

Charities directly or tangentially linked to the Covid-19 response across all aspects of society (health, education, housing, social care, well-being and others) now face an impossible choice; use financial relief at the expense of reducing charitable operations or; to ‘advance public benefit’ without financial support and risk not surviving.

This sector-wide dilemma might be likened to funding more nurses and doctors while restricting them from entering hospitals.

Help our sector survive Covid-19

We are asking the UK Government to make an important clarification to the CJRS in respect of its guidance to charities to:

‘Allow furloughed employees of registered charities to undertake work for their charity in a voluntary capacity providing that work continues to advance the public benefit, the employee continues to receive their salary at the same level pre-furlough (i.e topped up to 100% by the charity), and the charity can reasonably demonstrate furlough is required due to financial distress.’

Third Sector employees would then have the choice to volunteer their time back to the charity they were working for. Currently, any furloughed employee can volunteer their time but not to their employer.

Charities stand ready to play their part

There is much work to do. Many people across the UK rely on the talented and dedicated Third Sector workforce to provide support. We must continue and not diminish the invaluable impact of charities in our local communities whilst abiding by official guidance to stay at home and save lives.

Charities can support the nation, whilst Government, NHS, emergency services and key workers tackle the virus. Empower us by giving charity employees the choice to continue their work for good.

For and on behalf of the UK Third Sector,

Ed Cervantes-Watson

Vikrant Bhargava
Chair of Trustees, FIRST UK

. . .

Join ‘Furlough for Good’

Become a signatory to the letter by emailing your support to and sign the main petition live now.

Share your support on Twitter using #FurloughForGood.

Together, we can continue to help those who need it most.

. . .


Donna Speed, CEO, We the Curious

Anne Sheldon, CEO, The London Preschool

Anthony Harmer, Chief Executive, ELATT

Julie Feest, Chief Executive Officer, EDT

David Blake, Chairman, The London Preschool

Amy Shepherd, Amy Shepherd Consulting

Ross Blackadder, Chief Executive Officer, Transition Extreme

Sandy Potter, Avron

Claire Carpenter, Founder and Chief Executive, Lawrence Morison, Board Trustee, Jennifer Richmond, Finance & Operations Manager, Anna Ciborowska, James Gray, Phillip Reid, The Melting Pot

Mark Majewsky Anderson , Research and Innovation Director, Glasgow Caledonian University

Joe Trodden, CEO, Mindset Experts

Justine Daniels, CEO, Read for Good

Emily Beardsmore, CEO, Light Up Learning

Lesley Powell-Cullingfor, You Raise Me Up

Peter Wright, Founder and Vice Chairman, Friends of the Award

Laura Cecil, Trusts Fundraiser, The Sussex Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (SASBAH)

Gregory Kinsman-Chauvet, Cycling Enthusiast Officer (CEO) and Founder, Bike For Good

Robert Davies, The Bridgend Centre, Bollington

Kerensa Wilton, Avron

Julie Hogg-Weld, CEO, Bright Light Relationship Counselling charity

Rosie Hall, Office Manager, SELFA

Osbert Lancaster, Sustaining Dunbar

Sue Riddlestone OBE, CEO & co-founder, Bioregional

Alex Robinson, Director, Hubbub UK

Geraldine Des Moulins, Chief Officer, Possability People

Ann Hickey, Chief Executive, East Sussex Credit Union

Sam Bailey, Transition Town Worthing CIC

Sue Sayers, Project Manager, Trust for Developing Communities

Keith Hollis, Chair, Sussex Community Foundation

Jon Bebb, Turning the Tide

Katie Vincent, CEO, Allsorts Youth Project

Emily-Jane Stuttard, Sussex MS Centre

Victoria Gibbons, DD8 Music

Graham Galloway, Chief Executive, Kirrie Connections

Peter Blackwell, Chief Executive, Beatriz Marques, ReachOut

Anne Stafford, Safety Net

Ben Williams, Projects Co-ordinator, Sussex Interpreting Services

Mireille Shimoda, Dani Ahrens, Kate Page, Resource Centre, Brighton

Fran Ellis, CEO, Rising Sun Domestic Violence and Abuse Service

David Weston FCCT, Chief Executive, Teacher Development Trust

Amie Rai, ONCA

Midge Blake, Fundraising Coordinator, Lindengate

Georgina Collins, Independent Visitor Coordinator, Brighton & Hove Youth Participation Team

Jess Bayley, Centre for Ecotherapy

The ME Association

Ben Vulliamy, Chief Executive, University of York Students’ Union

Nik Kafka, CEO & Founder, Teach A Man To Fish

Adele Garside, Volunteer Co-Ordinator, Gig Buddies

Joel Voysey, the Children’s Charity

Leona McDermid, Chief Executive, Aberdeen Foyer

Emma Mochan, Vision Foundation

Helen Mackenzie, Purity Fundraising

Peter Cashman, Christian Aid Trust

Marie Harvey-Wells, Futurepace International Ltd

Nils Wieboldt, Director of Finance, Blood Cancer UK

Stuart Chell, Managing Director, Chell Perkins Ltd

Martin B Pearson, Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum

Neil Johnston, CEO, Paddington Development Trust

Julia South, Malcolm Eyre, Francoise Grimshaw, Dorothy Sheridan, Jill Davies (independents)

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