Hundreds of Reading Borough Council (RBC) staff are set to be furloughed, which will help the council to recoup millions of pounds in lost earnings during the coronavirus crisis.

The staff set to be furloughed include 125 employees at cultural centres such as The Hexagon, South Street Arts Centre, Reading Museum and the town hall, who have not been able to work during the coronavirus lockdown.

RBC’s chief executive and the leader of the council have agreed via a decision book to furlough employees who have not been able to work during the coronavirus lockdown, subject to agreement with staff and trade unions.

The council expects to receive £158,383 per month from the government for the 125 furloughed culture staff, which could save the council more than £1 million over the eight-month duration of the furlough scheme.

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Other staff to be furloughed include:

  • Other service areas where work has ceased or reduced significantly as a result of Covid-19
  • Employees who are shielding and unable to work from home
  • Staff who are unable to work because of caring responsibilities as a result of coronavirus, and who are also unable to work from home
  • Casual workers who are not required to work as a result of Covid-19

The council has been paying staff during the coronavirus lockdown but can reclaim 80 per cent of the wages for staff that have not been able to work from the government’s coronavirus furlough scheme.

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RBC has been paying and will continue to pay the additional 20 per cent for all staff, except casual workers, during the Covid-19 crisis.

More than £1 million could be saved by using the government scheme for casual workers.

Since March, around £180,000 per month has been spent to keep paying casual workers who have been unable to work during the crisis.

Placing staff on furlough will help to reduce the estimated £15.6m additional cost of Covid-19 to the council’s coffers up until March 31, 2021, and the council says its will help to protect jobs.

The government’s furlough scheme, which applies from March 1, has been extended to the end of October, with employer’s increasing their contributions from August onwards.

More than 20 councils have announced that they are using the furlough scheme, including Oxford City Council, Colchester Borough Council and Dundee City Council.