Furloughed staff CAN take on different types of work as well as training, government says

Thu 9 Apr 2020
Posted by: Ana Pintor
Trade News

Fruit pickers

Furloughed staff are free to take on additional work during the coronavirus outbreak, new government advice indicates.

After requests for clarification from multiple industry groups, the DIT (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) said furloughed employees are permitted to work for another employer “if contractually allowed”.

The news comes as the International Labour Organisation estimated 7% of work hours – the equivalent of 195m jobs worldwide – will be cut in Q2 of 2020 due to the virus.

The government earlier clarified that furloughed staff can continue to train from home, a move being supported by the Institute of Export & International Trade by provision of courses online.

Good news for food and drink

The advice is being welcomed by the UK’s farming sectors facing a seasonal labour shortage of up to 80,000 migrant workers who usually travel to the UK to take on harvesting roles.

Tom Bradshaw, vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union, told the FT that growers around the country “rely on seasonal workers to grow, pick and pack” fruit, vegetables and flowers.

The Food and Drink Federation last week told the Daily Update that labour shortages are its major obstacle to continuing to stock supermarket shelves during the pandemic.

Sarah Malone, exports policy manager at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told the Daily Update on 31 March:

“With staff absenteeism on the rise and concern over border issues impacting supply chains mounting, these are challenging times for food and drink exporters.”

An online portal is to be launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to match workers with fruit and vegetable picking roles.