NABMA has received a query from a member about how the Government’s Job Retention Scheme applies to local government workers and particularly those employed in Markets where the Market is closed.
The advice from the Local Government Association is that while local authorities might be strictly eligible to use the scheme public sector organisations generally are not expected to use it except in certain specific circumstances. This is because the Government has provided local authorities an extra £1.6bn funding to support them in responding to the coronavirus crisis.
The advice from the LGA can be summarised as follows:
“In a small number of cases, for example, where organisations are not primarily funded by the Government and whose staff cannot be redeployed to assist with the coronavirus response the Scheme might be appropriate for some staff.”
The Government has given the following advice to the LGA:
“Where employers receive public grant 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.“Where staff are not able to carry out their usual work, all employers in the public sector should make every effort to redeploy employees to assist with the Government’s response. In exceptional cases where local authorities need to close venues and furlough staff, it might be appropriate for them to claim funding through the Scheme.”
In these circumstances even where a market is closed it appears unlikely that staff will be eligible to benefit from the Scheme unless “exceptional” circumstances can be demonstrated. There is no further explanation of what might be regarded as “exceptional”.
However, the situation is different where local authorities have “arms-length” organisations or arrangements funded without public money and where staff are not redeployable to support the coronavirus response or other roles affected by staff shortages.
In these circumstances furloughing of staff might be the best available option.
NABMA is aware of a number of situations where Markets are managed under arms-length company arrangements and different other management arrangements. In these situations, the scheme may well be of benefit.