Can providers furlough staff and receive ESFA supplier relief?

Staff that have been furloughed by training providers must return to work if they want to receive supplier relief from the Department for Education.

Guidance released this afternoon confirmed that providers are not eligible for the support if they are using the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, as this would be double funding.

The DfE has said that providers can however apply to their relief scheme if it is “your intention to  take staff off furlough to deliver the contract”.

The guidance says: “When a furloughed employee returns to work, they must be taken off furlough. For the purposes of the relief scheme this means that any employee who will be involved in the delivery of activity described in your application and which you include as an eligible cost must be withdrawn from any claim for furlough when they return to work.

“All employees engaged in the delivery of the activity covered by the relief scheme must be paid by you in accordance with their agreed contract of employment.”

The DfE added that it “reserves the right” to check a provider’s records submitted to HMRC and “recover any funds for staff costs where those employees have been reported as being furloughed”.

Cabinet Office rules for its job retention scheme makes clear that providers aren’t meant to put staff on furlough in areas getting supplier relief.

“Suppliers cannot be paid in full under the contract and claim for some or all of the same employees working on the contract under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS),” it states.

“This is not only a double funding issue, but staff being recompensed under the CJRS would not be able to work.

“Suppliers must ensure that all of the parts of the workforce identified to deliver the contract in full are not furloughed during this period (under CJRS) because the supplier is receiving the continuity and retention payment.”

The deadline for the DfE’s relief scheme is 30 April – which gives providers just six days to apply.