Skip to content

What are the limitations of furloughing staff for publicly funded organisations?

The guidance from the Government concerning private sector organisations is very different from the guidance for public sector and organisations that receive public funding. The guidance states:

“The government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs. Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to Covid-19 are not expected to furlough staff.”

This guidance isn’t particularly clear but it appears that there is a recognition that there are different types of organisations which could be caught by this:

  1. Organisations who will be required to provide frontline services during the Covid-19 response. It is interpreted that NHS organisations such as NHS Trusts will fall firmly into this category. Employees of such organisations are expected not to be furloughed and to continue to work and be paid their normal salary in the usual way.
  2. Organisations who receive public funding to provide services to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. These organisations are not expected to furlough their staff. The type of organisation that would fit into this category are those that have been commissioned to developing breathing apparatus or testing kits to meet the needs of the healthcare sector during the peak of the pandemic.
  3. Organisations who receive public funds for staff costs to operate services. Employers are expected to continue to pay staff if the money to pay them is publicly funded. It is strongly inferred that this is irrespective of whether such staff have any work to perform. The type of organisation that is likely to fall into this category are GP practices, charities and private sector companies that have won contracts with the public sector.

Related FAQs

What about other Companies House filings?

The Bill allows the Secretary of State to make regulations to temporarily extend various filing date deadlines for companies. These include deadlines for filings accounts, confirmation statements, charges register, director and secretary appointments and resignations. The extended period must not exceed 42 days where the existing period is up to 21 days, or 12 months where the existing period is 3, 6 or 9 months.

What are the rules?

State aid rules are contained in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (previously referred to as the Treaty of Rome). The State aid rules prohibit the use of state resources, or any public support with an economic value, which given selectively has the capacity to distort trade by favouring certain undertakings, or the production of certain goods, and which has the potential to affect trade between Member States. Where aid is present it must not be granted unless it has been specifically approved in advance by the European Commission or benefits from a general exemption to the rules.

In general, the rules apply to all State actions which might assist businesses including:

  • Grants
  • “Soft” loans
  • Selling to business at an undervalue
  • Buying from business at an overvalue
Can employees volunteer if they have been furloughed?

Yes. The Government has confirmed that those on furlough will also be permitted to volunteer to help the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak without risking their pay.

What other financial resources are available for charities?

Charities can also take advantage of the existing measures the Government has already put in place including deferring their VAT bills, paying no business rates for their shops next year and furloughing staff where possible with the Government paying 80% of their wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – see our People and Employment FAQ’s and our Premise and Property FAQ’s.

What can suppliers of goods and services do to minimize risk?

If suppliers still wish to terminate the contract, they must contact the directors or the officeholder dealing with the insolvency process and obtain their approval to terminate the contract – which, of course, might not be given.

If the continued obligation under the contract to supply goods/services to the customer would place the supplier in financial hardship the supplier can apply to court for permission to terminate the contract.  This will involve time and legal expense.