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More than 20,000 staff at the largest 20 charities furloughed

04 May 2020 News

The largest 20 charities have furloughed more than 20,000 staff using the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, according to a survey from Civil Society News.

Between them, the largest 20 charities have furloughed 24,604 staff. We looked at the charities that feature in Charity Finance's 100 Index, produced by Civil Society Media, which ranks charities according their average income over a three-year period. 

The National Trust has furloughed the most people. The charity has furloughed 80% of its workforce, which amounts to around 11,000 people.

Oxfam has furloughed 1,400 employees, which equates to roughly two-thirds of its workforce, while the British Heart Foundation has furloughed 3,600, around 80% of its workforce. Cancer Research UK has furloughed around 2,400 staff, which equates to 60% of its workforce.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus. 

Employers can use a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month. 

Wellcome Trust declines to use scheme

Of the largest 20 charities, four have not disclosed whether they are using the scheme. Of the remaining 16 charities, the Wellcome Trust is the only one which said it is not using the scheme.

Data for the financial year ending 30 September 2019 puts its income at £481.0m and spending at £1331.3m.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “Wellcome is committed to ensuring no individual who works for or with Wellcome suffers financial hardship during the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.“

Topping up salaries?

Some charities are choosing to top up the salaries of furloughed staff beyond the 80% provided by the government.

The British Heart Foundation has said it will continue to pay all staff their full salary for the period until 31 May 2020, while Mencap, which has 530 staff on furlough, is topping up all furloughed staff’s salary to 100% pay “at the moment“, and will keep this under review.

The British Red Cross has furloughed 700 staff working in retail and community fundraising, and is expecting to furlough a further 450 colleagues from different parts of the organisation. This represents just over a quarter, 27%, of its workforce. All staff on the scheme will receive 100% of their pay.

Other charities have different top-up systems in place.

Marie Stopes International (MSI) has furloughed 23 team members, which represents 9% of the total London support office workforce. The charity will not be topping up salaries to 100% pay, but does have a top-up approach in place.

Earnings up to and including £37,500 per year are paid at 80%. Any earnings between £37,500 and £48,000 per year are paid at 70% (funded by MSI) and earnings over £48,000 per year are paid at 60% (funded by MSI).

Pay cuts 

Some senior staff at the 20 charities will also be taking pay cuts. 

At Cancer Research UK, around 2,400 staff have been placed on furlough, which represents about 60% of its workforce and 96% of its retail staff. 

The executive board has taken a 20% pay cut effective from 1 April, likely to continue until the end of August. All remaining staff will be taking a 20% reduction in hours and salary from 1 May for up to four months.

Approximately two-thirds of Oxfam staff in the UK were furloughed, and chief executive Danny Sriskandarajah will be cutting his salary by 20% for the coming months.

RNLI's chief executive, Mark Dowie, has taken a 50% pay cut. Some 35% of RNLI's staff have been placed on furlough. 

Other charities such as Mencap and the Canal and River Trust have not introduced pay cuts, but both said this was under review.

Unknown numbers furloughed 

Some charities reported that they were placing some staff on furlough, but did not provide estimated figures.

A spokesperson for Nuffield Health said: “Nuffield Health has been significantly impacted by Covid-19 with the closure of all of our fitness and wellbeing clubs and corporate sites. After careful consideration, we have put a number of our fitness and wellbeing and central teams on furlough to support our people while securing the future of the charity. 

“We have made all of our 31 hospitals available to the NHS to treat Covid-19 patients and patients in need of urgent elective or cancer care. We are also looking at how we can redeploy some of our people impacted by the closure of clubs to move to help our hospital teams during this time.”

The Girls’ Day School Trust has also reported that it is placing some staff on furlough, but said that as the situation is constantly evolving, it is not able to provide specific numbers. 

For the months of April and May, the charity has committed to topping up the pay of all furloughed staff to 100%, and will be reviewing this on a monthly basis.

A spokesperson said: “We are asking some of our staff to go on short-term furlough leave where there is less need for some roles or not enough work to do because of temporary school closures. 

“However, we can only furlough a small proportion of our staff. We still need our teachers to teach – and many of them are working harder than ever to deliver the curriculum through guided home learning, as well as caring for the children of key workers. Furloughing has been applied to staff mainly in administrative, catering, transport and cleaning roles, a relatively small proportion of our total workforce.”

Estimated numbers of furloughed staff can be found in this table.

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.

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