Public sector furlough


From the outset of the covid-19 pandemic, the government has supported employed people through the job retention scheme. This furlough scheme effectively covered the salaries of employees, on the strict condition that they were not able to work while receiving it. Organisations which receive taxpayers’ money for their staffing costs – such as ministerial departments – were not eligible to use this. However, there was an opportunity for organisations whose income consists of both public funds and private support to furlough employees. Many cultural institutions across the UK are examples of these.

These organisations – such as museums and art galleries – are reliant on ticket sales and private donations as a source of revenue. Their closure for much of the last 14 months has therefore necessitated a need for alternative sources of funding – such as the furlough scheme – with their revenue legally restricted and their staff unable to work. Public organisations claiming furlough must therefore be confident that their staff costs could not have been otherwise covered, and that it was preferable that their employees were forbidden from working rather than being deployed elsewhere. 

This research shows the amount of staff furloughed and job retention scheme money received by a selection of publicly-funded organisations since the outbreak of the pandemic.




Key findings

  • Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, 22 public bodies have furloughed 8,437 employees and received at least £54,815,840 in job retention scheme disbursements up to January 2021.

  • Historic Royal Palaces has received the most job retention scheme disbursements, totalling £12,890,185 for 839 furloughed staff. This sum corresponds to 34 per cent of Historic Royal Palaces wages and salaries bill in 2019-20.

  • The organisation with the largest average furlough payment was Historic Royal Palaces with each employee receiving £15,364. This is more than double the average payment received by staff across all public bodies which provided figures.

  • The Tate furloughed the greatest number of staff over this period with 1,056 employees, receiving £4,076,331 in job retention scheme disbursements. This is equivalent to 10 per cent of the Tate’s wages and salaries bill in 2019-20.

  • Channel 4 received £1,500,000 in furlough cash for 182 members of staff, but this money was subsequently repaid.

  • The British Council received £1,236,438 in furlough payments. These were paid to 234 employees which is approximately two per cent of the British Council’s total employees in 2019-20.

  • Forestry England furloughed 417 staff over the period claiming £736,286 in job retention scheme disbursements. This is equivalent to 2.6 per cent of their wages and salaries costs in 2019-20.

  • The National Army Museum furloughed the least members of staff and received the smallest amount of furlough cash with 13 and £30,589 respectively.



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