04:04, August 19 91 0 theguardian.com

2020-08-19 04:04:05
Your problems, with Anna Tims  Can our furloughed staff volunteer to help the elderly?

I help run a small daycare centre for the elderly. In line with government guidelines, we closed on 18 March and furloughed our three staff members as we couldn’t receive daily attendance fees which provide our main income. Government rules state that furloughed employees cannot provide services for their employer, but what constitutes a service? The staff want to support our members by phoning/writing to check they are coping, and are organising food hampers. As they only work two days a week (and we are only claiming furlough for those days), can they contact our members on the days when they would not normally be working?

VR, Faringdon, Oxfordshire

The government can reclaim any payments if furloughed staff are found to have continued working for an organisation. Julia Wilson, a partner with legal firm Baker McKenzie, reckons that any contact with your members could be in breach of the rules as the government guidance says a furloughed employee can only volunteer for another employer or organisation. Contacting members on non-working days risks being seen as an attempt to circumvent the rules. “The safest approach is not to permit these volunteer activities, although this seems very unfair,” says Wilson.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions

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