I have identified a worrying trend that is developing within organisations that have decided to furlough staff via the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This sadly includes a number of well-known UK membership organisations and associations. I am ‘calling this out’ as I don’t think what is happening is right.

A small but growing number of membership organisations and associations are furloughing administration/operational staff, however maintaining the service delivery (business as usual) via the full delegation of the role/responsibilities on to the respective line manager.

We understand why this is beginning to occur (from a financial/cost perspective in the current challenging membership environment), however this action should not be taking place, otherwise there will almost certainly be serious implications for the organisation and its staff.

I read with interest the excellent Furlough Guide from the CIPD which highlights:

“If there is no lay off provision in the existing contract the employer will need to agree with the employee that they are going to become furloughed because no work is available.” (CIPD)

(CIPD Furlough Guide, CIPD Website)

I firmly believe this activity is morally/ethically wrong and contravenes the terms (and spirit) of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We’ve been advised that this action could result in grants either not being given and/or being recalled/retracted at a later date (if HMRC find out).

This approach is wrong in three ways:

  1. It actually goes against the fundamentals of the furlough scheme and could mean that your organisation might not actually be eligible for the grant (and/or might be asked to repay it at a later date by HMRC).
  2. The responsibilities of these furloughed staff by default are being pushed up to the respective line manager/head/director. This therefore adds more operational pressure to already pressured staff (and will almost certainly contribute to stress/increases in sick leave)
  3. Although furloughing staff will help to retain jobs in the medium term under acceptable grounds, there is something to be said for doing the right thing/respect. As furlough is far from an ideal scenario for the employee and the employer.

If the ‘work’ is still available, and the membership body intends to continue that particular line of work uninterrupted (and at the same level of service provision) senior management teams should think twice before furloughing related members of staff.

I whole heartedly suggest senior management teams and boards consider the implications of their actions and the medium to long term impact this will have on your membership body, your staff and your members.

Richard Gott
Richard GottChair and Founder, MemberWise Network