Two-thirds of Friends House staff furloughed

Two-thirds of Britain Yearly Meeting staff have been furloughed

Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) has furloughed two-thirds of its staff in response to the COVID-19 crisis. With Friends House in London and Swathmoor Hall in Cumbria closed under lockdown, BYM said that it is unable to generate any trading income. Eighty per cent of those being furloughed are staff from roles in commercial and property activity, including Hospitality, while fifty per cent are in church and charity activity roles. BYM declined to give further information on which exact grades and roles had been furloughed, as it said it would risk giving away personal details. The furloughs will be in place for four weeks and then reassessed towards the end of each period.

Paul Parker, BYM’s recording clerk, said: ‘We are taking this step to protect jobs and to make sure BYM is able to serve the needs of the Quaker community, both now and long into the future. It’s devastating to have to furlough many of our dedicated and highly-professional staff, but the gap between our income and expenditure at this time means we have no choice but to make use of the support available from the government.’

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the government will cover eighty per cent of salaries for furloughed staff, up to a cap of £2,500 per month (staff are still employed but not undertaking work). But BYM has said it will top up to 100 per cent the salaries of its furloughed staff below this cap.

Paul Parker said: ‘The wellbeing of our staff is vitally important and we want to treat them as equitably as possible. We have taken this step to support staff on lower salaries during this challenging period.’

Some of the staff still working, including the recording clerk, will be donating their salary over £2,500 per month back to the organisation.

David Loxton, head of communications and fundraising, told the Friend that the decision-making process began when ‘members of the Management Meeting [none of whom have been furloughed] briefed the trustees on the likely impact that the pandemic would have on BYM’s finances and operations. The trustees decided that BYM should make use of the CJRS and set the priorities that Management Meeting should follow. The specific decisions about which staff should be furloughed were then taken by the Management Meeting. There was a full consultation process with staff and the recognised workplace union Unite’.

In selecting which staff and roles were to be furloughed, he said that BYM’s priorities were to: protect jobs, both now and in the future; serve the current and future needs of Quakers in Britain; and support the wellbeing of staff. The focus was also on ‘maintaining the following areas: to support Quaker Meetings, helping them at this difficult time to meet in worship; to work and speak out for a more sustainable and peaceful world, in ways that are appropriate and relevant at the moment; and to support some existing projects which would be irretrievably damaged by a pause’. Another aim was to provide ‘a basic level of support for our governance bodies, where they are able to meet: Meeting for Sufferings, the central and standing committees and BYM trustees’. Also given priority were ‘core operations which are essential for good governance and to ensure compliance with statutory requirements’.

Caroline Nursey, clerk of BYM trustees, said: ‘I am very grateful to our staff for managing this difficult situation and for their understanding at this challenging time. I am upholding them through this time, including those who are themselves unwell, and I’m looking forward to seeing them back at work supporting Quakers when the situation improves.’

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.