The coronavirus outbreak is putting a financial strain on charities and businesses across the country. Many organisations, including the Church of Scotland, are using the UK Government's furlough scheme.
The scheme is intended to protect jobs and prevent redundancies. It allows for workers to be placed on furlough for a period of time during which the Government will pay up to 80 per cent of their salaries to a limit of £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.
With churches, halls and community facilities closed, the Church is facing a sudden major decrease in income at a time when we were already striving to reduce our costs to match our budget.
To preserve jobs, the Church of Scotland has therefore placed some of the staff employed through the central offices on furlough under the terms of the UK Government scheme.
The furloughed staff include central services staff and ministerial development staff working across Scotland.
In deciding which staff to furlough the Church plan has prioritised roles that are essential to the Church's day to day operations as well as the vital work of parish ministry and pastoral support.
About 16% of the Church's workforce is currently on furlough but that number is expected to rise if the lockdown continues for many weeks.
The breakdown of furloughed staff is as follows:
- Of the 234 staff who work either from 121 George Street or from the Glasgow Priority Areas office 115 have been furloughed and 119 are not furloughed
- Of 151 people in Ministerial Development Staff roles 72 have been furloughed while 79 are not furloughed
Some Ministerial Development Staff have been able to continue in their work by moving their work online, for example by running an at-home youth club. However not all MDS could do this. Some of the church's youth work is dependent on schools being open, for example, while other work involves face-to-face contact that is not possible at present. Much depends on local circumstances.
Some staff have been furloughed because of medical or personal circumstances and others because their work can temporarily be streamlined or delayed. No parish ministers have been furloughed.
Rev Angus Mathieson, Interim Head of the Faith Nurture Forum said the church continues to serve communities across the country.
"Church of Scotland ministers are providing pastoral care by phone or online at a time when many people who may be isolated, ill or fearful badly need the reassurance and comfort they can provide," he said.
"They are working to set up or support volunteer schemes to assist those confined in their homes. They are a source of spiritual support for our health and social care workers and their families.
"Many of our ministers have also been streaming or recording on-line worship which allows congregations to remain connected to their churches and which is appreciated by an audience far beyond their congregations.
"A number of our parish ministers are working to cover for a neighbouring minister who is self-isolating. Others are helping and encouraging local office bearers as well as caring for bereaved families, while having to tell them that hardly anyone can attend the funeral service. They are also praying for others. Lockdown does not mean lack of care.
"Our ministers are also thinking ahead to the time when the lockdown ends and planning for church life in a world changed by the coronavirus outbreak.
"The continued presence and input of our ministers in communities across Scotland is a living sign of the Church of Scotland's commitment to the people of this nation regardless of the faith they may profess."