Can the staff working in an NHS contracted pharmacy be furloughed (excluding those who are in vulnerable or shielded groups)?

23 Apr 2020

We have received confirmation from government that furloughing can be allowed in the following circumstances:

  • For those staff in a business that are not working on NHS service delivery – for example this may include those in community pharmacy whose role is to sell cosmetics.
  • In circumstances where NHSE-I agrees to the closure of a pharmacy – for example in a closed shopping mall to which the public have no access and  if payments under the contractual framework cease, pharmacy team members, not be needed to support other pharmacies that are open, could be furloughed.

Please note: DHSC, NHSE-I and PSNC are in discussions about any additional support for extra staff costs and COVID related expenditure in support of community pharmacy.

GOV.UK advises that where employers who receive public funding for staff costs, and where funding is continuing, that they are to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs. In addition to the requirement for the employee’s role not to be publicly funded (for which monies will not be reducing), what is clear is that any furlough payments claimed must usually go hand in hand with a downturn in work as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak (subject to our comments below about special categories of workers) and it is assumed many pharmacies will struggle to demonstrate this and, as such, will not be eligible for the job retention scheme.

In relation to special categories of workers such as those who are shielded and vulnerable, further guidance is being sought. This is due to differences in guidance between the Treasury Direction and that of gov.uk which can be interpreted in different ways. As soon as further guidance has been received this will be given.