Coronavirus


Keep well, keep praying, keep connected

We know there are a number of other issues that arise from this guidance, and that things are likely to continue to change in the UK  – be assured that we’re working on this and we’ll stay in touch with you. In all of this, we have three key aims: 

  • Keeping people well 
  • keeping people praying 
  • Keeping people connected

Please make sure that you keep an eye on the Church of England website for all the latest guidance for churches and parishes relating to Coronavirus - and if you have specific queries you need help with, or you're in need of support, please speak with your Archdeacon in the first instance. 

If you'd like to receive the latest updates from the Diocese on this issue, there's a special mailing list you can sign up to here (but, of course, we'll continue to highlight any key information in the weekly Briefing mailing). 

Some of the guidance below has been given by our Diocesan Registrar in response to questions that have arisen - that advice is clearly signposted. With respect to this advice, please note the following from our Registrar:

The principal source of up-to-date information about how the Church of England is dealing with a range of issues is the Coronavirus (COVID-19) section of the Church of England website, which should be checked regularly.

The purpose of this note is to offer guidance to colleagues on a range of matters which have been raised with Ann Beswick, my Registry Clerk, or with me, or with colleagues providing legal advice to other Dioceses. It is not intended to provide detailed legal advice, which normally depends on the particular facts of individual cases. Nevertheless, I hope that it is helpful.

During these difficult times, both Ann and I are working remotely and can be contacted in the usual way (ocj@wslaw.co.uk or 020 7593 5034 for me and for Ann abeswick@wslaw.co.uk or 020 7593 5148). This may mean we cannot easily access some of our paper records but we will do our best to provide normal service!

Owen Carew-Jones
Registrar and Bishop’s Legal Secretary

Click the heading or questions below to jump straight to what you need:  

Should churches be closed?

Worship & Prayer

Safeguarding & Coronavirus

Occasional offices

PCCs & APCMs

Parish employees & the Government Furlough Scheme

Church Buildings & Property

Pastoral Care

Managing clergy vacancies & appointments during Coronavirus

Key workers

Diocesan staff & parish support

Parish & diocesan finance

Canterbury Cathedral 

Prayer for those affected by the Coronavirus outbreak


Should churches be closed? 

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 March 2020, our church buildings remain closed for public worship. A notice explaining this should be put on the church door (find a template poster here). 

During this time, we must also do all that we can to provide resources and support for those who are isolated, fearful and vulnerable. A number of national online resources including weekly streamed services and daily audio, as well as additional worship provision on the BBC are there to help us, and more are on their way. Please do all that you can to point people to this content.

It is also imperative that as the Church of Jesus Christ, called to offer hope and light in the darkness of this world’s ills, we maintain a praying presence for our community, though from today onwards this must happen from our hearts and from our homes.

Our Church buildings are closed to the public, but the Church must continue to support and encourage our communities making use of telephones and other forms of technology to keep in touch with people and ensure pastoral care is maintained, and as shepherds of Christ’s flock we are committed to making this happen.

In summary, these are the guidelines we must all now follow:

  1. Our church buildings are closed for public worship
  2. Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible
  3. There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice
  4. Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way. 
  5. Live streaming of services is more important than ever and is permissible from homes or churches (under certain guidance and practices - see below). We encourage us all to consider how we can be as creative as possible with streaming services and other resources. There are many, many fantastic examples of churches and clergy using technology to reach and engage communities. Read more guidance here
  6. Foodbanks should continue where possible under strict guidelines and may have to move to be delivery points not places where people gather. If you can do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank - the Spareable app offers an easy way to help your local foodbank without ever leaving your home

Can we allow a designated person to enter our church buildings to pray, worship or care for the fabric of the building?

Yes, following advice from the House of Bishops, issued on 5 May 2020, parishes may now decide, with certain guidance and practices in place, to enable ONE designated person to enter your church building, for the following purposes:

  • Praying the Daily Office
  • Live streaming or pre-recording worship
  • Celebrating the Eucharist on behalf of the community (if the designated person is a priest)
  • Ringing one bell from the ground floor to announce prayers being said
  • Checking the fabric of the building in the course of these duties

We would encourage PCCs and Incumbents to consult with one another on this decision - and in the document below we suggest some questions that could help you in discerning locally whether this is something that the church and ministers wish to do, and whether you feel that this would be the best way to express your church's ministry in this next phase of our nation's life. It is absolutely fine if you decide that you do not wish to re-enter your building at this stage - no church or minister must feel any compulsion to do so.

In making this decision, please also remember that the virus has not changed - it remains highly contagious and, although many are mildly affected by it, others can become very seriously ill. Please do not take any unnecessary risks, either with your own health or with the health of others. The risk of infection from surfaces (including door handles) is very high and the disease can remain on surfaces for 72 hours.

This is not a role that can be shared - any one church should only be accessed by the same person, although they may be accompanied by members of their household, if necessary. The PCC need to be clear about who is (and who isnʼt) the designated person for each church building. This may be a lay or ordained person, depending on what makes sense to you locally and why they are entering the building.

If you wish to allow a designated person to enter the church building at this time, to help you to ensure that the environment is kept as safe as possible, please ensure that you use the checklist provided in the document below, and that you read the more detailed guidance contained in it, too.

In all of this, please be assured of our prayers and support for you. While we cannot make these decisions on your behalf, we are committed to ensuring that you have all the help and advice you need to discern what God is calling you to do locally - please do get in touch with your Archdeacon if you need anything more.

Worship & Prayer During Coronavirus

We want to live stream worship and prayer - can we use copyrighted material? 

From our Registrar:

  • In seeking to provide for the continuing spiritual life of a parish, a wide range of approaches to offering prayer and worship are being used and considered. Parishes should not rely on the exceptional nature of the present situation to seek to justify falling foul of copyright laws. Some copyright owners may be less understanding than others.
  • The law of copyright is a complicated and specialist area. However, a useful basic summary of guidance is available on the coronavirus advice and resource page of the Church of England website. Further more detailed advice is available here.

Access more worship and prayer resources and guidance here

Safeguarding & Coronavirus

Resources: 

The National Team has also taken the decision that the completion of the Past Cases Review 2 by dioceses, cathedrals, TEIs, religious communities and all other church settings will now be expected during Spring/ Summer 2021.

If you have any safeguarding concerns or queries, please don't hesitate to contact a member of our Safeguarding Team

Occasional Offices 

  • There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice
  • Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and social distancing as far as possible
  • Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way. 

Weddings

A couple’s wedding can no longer take place. What do we do?

Once we have permission for weddings to take place in church again, it would be good to liaise with the couple about a new date. We recommend that the cost does not change. It is likely that any banns already called will have lapsed (they are valid for three months from the final calling, or the final calling of the earlier set if more that one set have been required). If this is the case, there may time to call new banns, in which case do not charge for these; otherwise, the couple may need to apply for a common licence and we recommend refunding the banns fee.

Can we publish banns as part of a live-streamed service which is not public worship?

From our Registrar:

  • No. Such purported publication would be invalid, and would bring into question the legal status of any marriage erroneously solemnised in reliance on it.
  • Section 7 of the Marriage Act 1949 requires that banns of matrimony must be published on three Sundays preceding the solemnization of the marriage at the “principal service”. (The ‘principal service’ is defined as the service at which the person publishing the banns considers the greatest number of persons who habitually attend public worship are likely to attend.)
  • The principal service must be a formal service, i.e. an act of public worship according to a form of service authorised or allowed by Canon. If there is no such service, banns cannot be validly published.

Can we affix a notice publishing banns to the church door?

From our Registrar:

  • No. Banns must be published at the principal service and there is no legal basis for any other form of publication

Can we publish banns by displaying a notice on the parish website – far more people will be made aware of the proposed marriage than would have heard the banns in church?

From our Registrar:

  • No – for the reasons given above.

What about other ecclesiastical preliminaries relating to weddings?

From our Registrar:

  • HM Government’s advice as at the date of this note is clear: churches are closed and therefore there cannot be any marriage services and banns cannot be published for the time being. This will continue until the current regime is relaxed. At that point, some couples may want to get married quickly, and clergy need to be prepared for this
  • If a couple wishes to proceed quickly once the regime is relaxed, a common licence would normally provide the simplest alternative way forward, though there may be circumstances in which an Archbishop’s special licence would be appropriate. Advice is available from surrogates and the Diocesan Registry, and will depend on the particular facts of each specific case. A Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate (SRC) may also provide an alternative form of preliminary, although the statutory 28 day notice period means that this is never going to be a quick solution; in addition, an SRC may not be available where a Qualifying Connection is being relied upon.

Can’t the Bishop (or the Registrar or the vicar or someone else) simply extend the period of validity of the banns (or the common licence)?

From our Registrar:

  • No. Unfortunately, there is no legal power to do that.

Should we waive Common Licence fees?

From our Registrar:

  • As a gesture of goodwill to those couples who have been or will be unable to have banns called in time and who will therefore need to obtain a common licence, the Chancellor has agreed to reduce the statutory fee from £200 to £100 for those affected by the period of closure of churches for public worship. Of this £100 fee, £74 is payable to the Diocesan Registry and £26 is payable to the Surrogate. If fees have already been paid to the parish for calling banns, the parish may consider it appropriate to refund those fees.
  • Where a couple would have required a common licence in any event (because banns could not be called due to the circumstances of the couple) or where banns will be able to be called once churches are open again for public worship, the normal statutory fee will apply.

How can we establish a Qualifying Connection for couples wishing to get married?

From our Registrar:

  • Where a couple is in the process of establishing a qualifying connection in order to be able to be married in a particular church (either by banns or by common licence), but the present restrictions on public worship prevent them from completing that process, it will be a matter for the informed judgement of the local clergy, considering the particular circumstances of each case, as to whether the requirement is met.
  • The Church of England Marriage Measure (‘CEMM’) provides that a qualifying connection is established where a person has “at any time habitually attended public worship in that parish for a period of not less than six months”. The suspension of public worship may interrupt a couple’s attempt to attend worship over such a period. The legislation does provide for this eventuality but, nevertheless, the couple’s attendance must still demonstrate a degree of habit and regularity, and it must be measured over a period of not less than six months (and therefore cannot be anticipated).
  • The House of Bishops’ Guidance on the CEMM indicates that “the minister should regard the test as satisfied if ….
    - the person concerned has worshipped in the parish over a period of years and regularly attended worship at least three times a year at the same festivals/occasions (e.g. Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, Harvest Festival , Remembrance Sunday), unless he or she was prevented from doing so by e.g. illness; or
    - the person concerned has worshipped in the parish for a shorter period, but for 6 months or more, and has attended regularly at least once a month unless prevented by illness etc.”
  • The current Coronavirus crisis can reasonably be interpreted as a circumstance within  the “etc” provision. If the couple has demonstrated a genuine commitment and intention to attend public worship and has indicated that they will attend regularly for at least six months, and has actually attended public worship regularly for at least a part of that period, but has been prevented from being able to do so in the remainder of the six-month period as a result of the restrictions on public worship, it would be reasonable for the minister to consider the qualifying connection to have been established. It will be for the minister to decide, taking account of all of the circumstances (e.g. the number of times attended, over what period, the pattern or regularity of that attendance, what the couple have said about their intentions and whether they lived up to what they said). The decision is for the minister alone to take provided that they have regard to all of the guidance (the House of Bishops’ Guidance and these comments here).
  • If the six month period has been interrupted by closure of the church for public worship, that period prior to closure can be added to any period after closure to amount to a six month period overall.

Funerals

Can live singing take place at funerals?

As singing can project droplets into the atmosphere, there is a strong risk of spreading infection. Therefore, regrettably, singing cannot currently take place at funerals, though of course, recorded music may be used. 

Pastoral Care

Can we continue to take home communion or do home visits?

With the current restrictions on movement, all pastoral care should be done by phone or social media. There may be cases, in extremis, where a visit may need to be undertaken, for example to minister to a dying parishioner (NB sadly, this is not permitted for those suffering from Covid-19). Visits to those who are self-isolating because they have symptoms of Covid-19 or have been in contact with someone who has, or are in ‘shielding’ cannot be visited until their period of isolation is over. Any visit that does take place must follow rigorous health and hygiene practices and maintain social distancing.

How is the church caring for people's mental health during the crisis?

The Church of England has produced this guidance on mental health and wellbeing during Coronavirus - and more resources are in development. 

I'm worried and stressed - where can I get support? 

The Living Well has had to close to guests at Nonington – but they are open for listening, prayer and support by phone and email so don't hesitate to contact us them if you need some help:

01304 842847
contact@the-living-well.org.uk

You can also email requests to their weekly prayer support team: 
prayer@the-living.well.org.uk
 
The team plans some interior redecoration at The Living Well and to reset the Labyrinth, so be re-assured that they will reopen with a flourish at some point later in the year. 

Managing clergy vacancies & appointments

Our parish is in interregnum. Will the recruitment process continue?

The Bishop’s Senior Staff Team has decided that, wherever possible, we will continue with recruitment processes. We will be as creative as possible, for example, using video conferencing for panel meetings and for interviews. We may have to be flexible with dates and timeframes and any offers of post might have to be conditional until we can eventually have a face-to-face meeting. In some cases, we might have to pause recruitment because of local circumstances.

Our new priest is due to move soon. What will happen about them starting in role?

At present, most removals have now been halted. Arrangements are being made nationally to ensure no clergy are left unpaid ‘between jobs’. When the current crisis is over, moves and licensings will be rearranged as quickly as possible. There may be a few cases where someone has moved but their licensing service cannot now take place. The licensing itself can take place by video conferencing but the installation and welcome service will take place as soon as possible after the lifting of restrictions.

Can we use 'stand-in clergy' where our usual clergy are not available or during an interregnum?

From our Registrar:

  • In the event that a need arises for support from clergy who are not licensed to the parish or do not have the Bishop’s permission to officiate, parishes should remember that only clergy who are currently beneficed, licensed or hold permission to officiate in a diocese of the Church of England may exercise ministry, even on an occasional or short term basis.

What about this summer's Ordinations?

We don't imagine that it will be any surprise to you that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have unfortunately had to postpone this summer's Ordination services. These will now take place on the afternoons of 26 September (for the ordination of Priests) and 27 September (for the ordination of Deacons)  in Canterbury Cathedral. However, our ordination candidates will still begin their curacies this summer as planned, wherever that is possible. 

We understand that this will be a source of disappointment to our ordinands, who are looking forward to their big day - but we will make sure it's a party worth waiting for!

Key workers

I’m a member of the clergy/a parish administrator. That means I’m a Key Worker, doesn’t it?

‘Religious staff’ are indeed categorised as key workers. However, this is a catch-all phrase to be carried across all faiths. For the Church of England, it is primarily intended for those undertaking funeral ministry and critical pastoral care. If you wish to use key worker status, for example for continuing to send your child to school, you’ll need to apply through your archdeacon for the Bishop to certify that status.

PCCs & APCMs

We would encourage you to postpone all non-essential meetings and - where necessary - to seek to transact business by email or video conferencing (such as Skype). 

Bishop Rose has signed a Statutory Instrument, which extends the time period for holding APCMs to 31 October 2020. It also extends the time for holding a meeting of parishioners to choose churchwardens in the year 2020 to not later than 31 October 2020 (see more guidance below)

What about our APCM?

From our Registrar:

  • Following changes that came into force on 1 January 2020, the Churchwardens Measure 2001 requires an annual meeting of parishioners to be held not later than 31st May each year.
  • In the present exceptional circumstances, the Bishop has exercised her powers under Section 10 of the Churchwardens Measure so that the date by which an annual meeting must take place is postponed to 31st October 2020.
  • In the present exceptional circumstances, and where no APCM has been held this year, the Bishop has exercised her powers under Rule 78 so that the date by which an annual parochial church meeting must take place is postponed to 31st October 2020. This means that the date by which all the business required to be dealt with at that meeting (including the election of parochial representatives of the laity to the PCC (“directly elected PCC members”) and to the deanery synod (“directly elected deanery synod members”)) is extended to that date.

Can our APCM be held ‘virtually’ (by email, phone or video call)?

From our Registrar:

  • No. There is no provision in the Churchwardens Measure for the annual meeting of parishioners to be held in this way. This is not simply about the lack of a legal basis for an alternative to an annual meeting, but also about the lack of any procedure or other arrangements to ensure that a proper process is followed.

What about Churchwarden elections? 

From our Registrar: 

  • The Bishop has also directed that a churchwarden chosen in 2019 (and duly admitted to office) will continue to hold office until 31st January 2021, unless his or her successor is admitted to office before that date. Where the successor is admitted to office sooner, the outgoing churchwarden will cease to hold office on the date of admission of the successor.
  • If a churchwarden is serving a sixth successive period of office, that sixth successive period is extended so that the disqualification under Section 3 of the Churchwardens Measure (disqualification after six periods of office) will arise only at the end of that extended period, i.e. on or before 31st January 2021.
  • The continuation in office of a churchwarden is subject to the statutory provisions as to the suspension, resignation and vacation of office of churchwardens, and so these provisions will continue to apply in full. A churchwarden who, for whatever reason, does not wish to continue in office, may still resign pursuant to Section 7 of the Churchwardens Measure. If a successor has already been elected by an annual meeting, that person may be admitted to office by the archdeacon (or alternative arrangements may be made if that is not possible; please contact the Registrar). Otherwise, a special meeting would have to be convened to elect or appoint a successor, which will not be possible in the current circumstances.

Can our churchwardens be elected ‘electronically’ (for example, by email)?

From our Registrar:

  • No. There is no provision in the Churchwardens Measure for the election of churchwardens to be conducted in this way. This is not simply about the lack of a legal basis for an alternative to an annual meeting, but also about the lack of any procedure or other arrangements to ensure that a proper process is followed.

What about elections for PCC members?

From our Registrar:

  • The Bishop has also directed that a person who was a directly elected PCC member in March 2020, and whose term of office was due to expire at the conclusion of the APCM this year, will continue to hold office until the end of the deferred APCM (i.e. a date not later than 31st October 2020).
  • Where a parish has already held its APCM for 2020, the newly directly elected PCC members will have already taken up office.

What about elections for Deanery Synod representatives?

From our Registrar:

  • The Bishop has directed that the term of office of directly elected deanery synod members holding office in March 2020 will continue to hold office until 30th November 2020. As such, they will also continue to be members of the PCC until that date.
  • All directly elected deanery synod members elected at their parish’s 2020 APCM (whether deferred or not) will now take up office on 1st December 2020.
  • The extension of the period of office of directly elected PCC members and deanery synod members is subject to the relevant statutory provisions as to their suspension, disqualification and vacation of office, and so those provisions will continue to apply in full. A PCC member or deanery synod member who, for whatever reason, does not wish to continue in office, may still resign and the usual rules for filling a vacancy apply.

What about our PCC meetings?

From our Registrar:

  • Whilst the new Church Representation Rules (“the CRRs”) make provision for an APCM or special parochial church meeting to make a scheme to vary (within certain limitations) the application of the CRRs in the parish, no such schemes have yet been submitted to the Bishop’s Council. Accordingly, the Model Rules, set out in Part 9 of the CRRs, apply in all parishes of the Diocese.

Can we hold our PCC meetings 'virtually' (by email, phone or video call?

From our Registrar:

  • There is no general provision permitting ‘virtual’ meetings. However, if all the other procedural requirements for a meeting are met, and the PCC wished to proceed in this way, it seems to me that a video-conference meeting could take place, as long as every member wishing to attend the meeting is able, and has the facility, to do so (which may or may not be the case). It would be a fundamental pre-requisite of any such meeting that all the members attending could both hear and see each other. A telephone or other audio link would not be sufficient. (This is going further than is envisaged in the CRRs but is based on the legal understanding of what constitutes a meeting. It is important to note that if a member wishes to attend, but does not have the facility to do so by videoconference, that member is entitled to attend the meeting in person, which is likely to be problematical for the foreseeable future, and it would be for that reason that a valid meeting could not be convened.)
  • Formal business, however, may also be conducted by correspondence, which now includes by email where a person has provided an email address. See CRRs Rule 76 and Model Rules M29. Rule M29 provides that “unless objection to the proposals is received from members in such numbers and within such period from the date of their being sent as the chair of the PCC may specify, the proposals are to be treated at the end of that period as approved by the PCC as if they had been approved at a duly convened meeting”. No contentious business should be dealt with in this way.
  • It should also be remembered that the Standing Committee of the PCC may transact the PCC’s business between meetings, subject to the statutory limitations and any directions of the PCC. See CRRs Model Rule M31. The comments above relating to video-conference meetings apply similarly to the Standing Committee.
  • These are, of course, the provisions for formal meetings and business. There is nothing to prevent email and telephone interaction between members of the PCC to give informal consideration to matters. It may be possible to deal with many straightforward and uncontroversial matters in this way. However, formal decisions would need to await a properly constituted meeting of the PCC or, as appropriate, the Standing Committee.

Do we still have to submit our accounts & annual report to the Charity Commission?

From our Registrar:

  • PCCs required to submit accounts and an annual return to the Charity Commission should note that the Commission’s current advice is that the charity should contact the Commission if it believes that it will need an extension to the (10 month) deadline for filing the annual return. Given the number of charities likely to be affected, it may be helpful for a member of the PCC to check the Charity Commission website from time to time, in order to check for any further guidance.

Parish employees & the Government Furlough Scheme

What if our employees have some work but not enough?

If employees have some work but not enough, they cannot be furloughed under the job retention scheme. Employees are not allowed to carry out work for the employer during the furlough period. The scheme is only aimed at supporting employers who otherwise could not maintain their workforce because the business has been affected by coronavirus.

If employers’ priority is to obtain the payments under the scheme, then reducing everyone’s hours equally will not work. However, employers can arrange staffing needs differently, for example: 

  • by keeping some (perhaps essential) people working full-time on normal pay and others not working on furlough pay.
  • rotating the furlough by having some employees on furlough and others fully working. Then -  after at least three weeks - those fully working can be on furlough and the others start working again.

Employers should consult staff to find a solution that works for everyone. If employers decide a reduction in hours or pay is the only solution, then employees will need to agree and this will fall outside the coronavirus job retention scheme payments.

What if the employee has a second job?

If a furloughed employee works elsewhere there are two main possibilities.

  1. Employees who continue an existing second part-time job: Employees with two or more jobs are eligible for the scheme. The government has confirmed that each job should be treated separately. So, if an employee has more than one employer, they can be furloughed from one job, or both jobs. The £2,500 cap will apply to each employment individually. If the employee only works elsewhere outside the hours of the job they have been furloughed from, then no problems would arise.
  2. Employees who take on elsewhere during their normal contractual hours: The amended government guidance has now confirmed that employees can be furloughed in one job and receive their 80% furlough payment and can start working for another employer during the hours they would normally be working for the employer who has furloughed them. They will receive the furlough payments from the first employer and their normal wages from the new employer. 

Whilst working elsewhere is permissible under the coronavirus job retention scheme; whether the employer agrees to this is a separate matter. The employer and employee’s agreement depend upon a number of issues, including the competitive nature of the business and the terms of the original contract. 

If employees do not agree to be furloughed can we dismiss by reason of redundancy?

Yes, if employees do not agree to be furloughed employers can dismiss by reason of redundancy if the redundancy definitions are met and a proper process followed.

Government guidance now states that employees must give written consent to cease all work. Ideally employees should also content to being furloughed and the pay reduction (unless there are lay off provisions in their contract).

Can we place employees who are shielding on furlough even if there is work for them to do?

Yes, employers can place employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance on furlough even if there is work for them to do. Employees who need to stay at home with someone else who is shielding are also covered. Shielding employees are those who are extremely vulnerable (for example, due to organ transplants, lung cancer, severe chest conditions or immunosuppressed conditions) and who have been notified by the NHS to isolate for 12 weeks. If shielding employees can work at home, then they can continue to do this unless they become unwell. However, if there is no work to do at home, the shielding employees can be furloughed.

The subsequent government advice supplementing the coronavirus job retention scheme has confirmed that the employers can claim the furlough grant for those shielding employees; they do not have to be placed on sick pay.

We just made a group of employees redundant; should we reinstate them and put them on furlough leave?

Employers who have just made a group of employees redundant can reinstate those employees and put them on furlough leave.

The government has confirmed the coronavirus retention scheme covers employees who have already been made redundant after 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by the same employer. It is not mandatory for employers to reinstate employees and then place them on furlough, but for redundancies that are still in the pipeline, there is a risk of unfair dismissal claims if the furlough option is not considered along with all the usual method of avoiding redundancies. 

Employers who decide they have no alternative but to press ahead with redundancies now, despite the existence of the scheme, should fully consult and keep careful records to show why the redundancies will still be needed despite the scheme’s availability.

When the government ends the job retention scheme at the end of June (unless extended) employers can decide whether there is sufficient work for employees to return. If the work has ceased or diminished, or is expected to cease or diminish, then redundancies can be implemented at that stage following full redundancy procedures for notice, consultation and selection.

What is the position of employees who already ceased employment with the employer before 19 March 2020?

The position varies for employees who ceased employment before 19 March 2020, depending on the reason for their departure:

  • Employees who left the employer before 28 February are not eligible for the furlough scheme.
  • Employees who stopped working for the employer for a reason not due to coronavirus before or after 19 March 2020 (for example because they left voluntarily to start another job) are not eligible.
  • Employees who were made redundant, furloughed, laid off or who stopped working due to coronavirus between 28 February and 19 March 2020 should still be eligible for the scheme. These employees can still be put on furlough and claimed for. However, this may involve re-employing them if they had been fully dismissed by reason of redundancy before the 19 March.

Can employers place new employees on furlough immediately and receive an 80% contribution towards their pay?

No, if an employee starts a new job the employer cannot immediately then furlough that new employee and claim reimbursement of 80% of their pay under the coronavirus job retention scheme. 

The scheme is only open to all UK employers that had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020. The relevant employees must have been on the payroll on that date (because the government changed the original payroll date from the 28 February 2020 employees who were on the payroll then but were made redundant or stopped working for the employer between then and 19 March still qualify for the scheme. The employer may need to re-employ them to put them on furlough in some cases).

The situation covering new employees is relatively unusual but some employers may have a recruitment process already underway and have made job offers which have just been accepted. The following applies:

  • Employees hired after 19 March 2020 cannot be furloughed or claimed for under the scheme.(The employer must have made a real time information (RTI) submission to HMRC in respect of the employee on or before 19 March 2020.If new employees were not on this employer’s payroll on that date they do not qualify for the scheme with their new employer unless they transferred under either the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules.)
  • Employees on unpaid leave before 28 February cannot be furloughed, until the date on which it was agreed they would return from unpaid leave.
  • Employees placed on unpaid leave after 28 February 2020 can be furloughed.
  • Employees already made redundant or laid off between 28 February and 19 March (when the scheme was announced) are eligible under the scheme if reinstated.
  • Employees on schedule to be made redundant after 20 March 2020 can be furloughed instead of proceeding with the redundancy process. 

Should former employers re-employ previous employees so they can claim furlough pay for them?

Former employers can re-employ some previous employees so they can claim furlough pay for them but they are not required to do so. The basic rule is that to be eligible for a furlough pay claim employees must have been on the payroll and notified to HMRC on its Real Time Information system on or before 19 March 2020. Employees hired after 19 March 2020 cannot be claimed for, unless they were on the payroll on 28 February in which case special guidance applies.

Employees who were on the payroll on 28 February but not on 19 March

Because the government changed the 19 March payroll date from the earlier date of 28 February, employers with employees on the payroll and notified to HMRC on or before 28 February can claim furlough for those employees, even if they were made redundant between the two dates. The employer can rehire the employees and put them on the scheme, even if they were not rehired until after 19 March.

Can employees staying at home to look after young children be placed on furlough? What about those on maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay or shared parental rights?

Employees staying at home to look after young children are thought to be included in the furlough system in preference to being made redundant.

Employees eligible for statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance can claim up to 39 weeks of statutory pay or allowance as normal. The same principles apply for normal paternity, adoption or shared parental pay rights.

If the employer offers enhanced contractual rights these are included as wage costs that can be claimed through the scheme. The same principles apply to other types of family leave.

Employers with staff on maternity leave can reclaim 92% of SMP back in the normal way. (This is 103% if small employers’ relief applies). Employers cannot claim the 8% balance of SMP through the furlough scheme because the guidance does not yet say this is an option.

Is it possible to switch between maternity and furlough?

Some employees may wish to curtail their maternity leave to switch to furlough if that pays more than maternity (or adoption or shared parental) pay. If the employer and employee agree to furlough this seems to be permissible. Ending maternity leave early normally requires eight weeks’ notice.

Which special categories or atypical employees can be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

A wide range of individuals, including some who do not necessarily have employee status in employment law, can be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The defining criteria is that they must have been paid via the employer’s PAYE payroll and notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020.

  • Office Holders: Office holders, including company directors and LLP members, can be furloughed as agreed between the office holder and the business that operates PAYE for their payments.
  • Self-isolating employees: Those self-isolating on medical advice can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). They cannot be furloughed while on SSP, but they can be furloughed once they are no longer receiving it.
  • Shielding employees: Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) can be furloughed if they are unable to work from home. The government have confirmed that shielding employees can be placed on furlough even if the employer has work for them to do.
  • Short time or reduced hours working: Employees working reduced hours, receiving reduced pay, will not be eligible for the scheme as they are still working.
  • Sick leave: Employees on sick leave or self-isolating for medical reasons can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Employees on SSP cannot be furloughed until they are no longer receiving SSP.
  • Unpaid leave: Employees that started unpaid leave after 28 February 2020 can be furloughed.
  • Zero hours contract: These workers (provided they are on the PAYE system) can be furloughed. Special rules apply to assist with the calculation of the 80 % of salary.

More information is available on the government website.

Can we place staff who were on suspension for a disciplinary matter on furlough?

Employees who are suspended on a disciplinary matter remain employees and can be placed on furlough. However, many complexities will result from this.

In any circumstances employers should only have been using suspension with reasonable cause and in accordance with a right to suspend on full pay in the contract of employment. Any suspensions should be as brief as possible, so ideally the employer should resolve the suspension situation promptly.

We have some employees on furlough and think that they might be doing basic admin, for example, replying to emails and data cleansing on the database. Can they do that?

When employees are on furlough, they must not to do any work for their employer that:

  • makes money for the employer or any organisation linked or associated with it
  • provides services for the employer or any organisation linked or associated with it

If an employee is still working (even if pay and hours are reduced) then the employer cannot furlough them and claim the government grant under the scheme. Even tasks such as basic administration, replying to customer care emails or briefing colleagues with handover information are services. Even if these tasks are not revenue generating, they may count as work. Furloughed employees can’t provide services for their employer even if it’s in a different role, unless the official advice changes.

Furloughed employees can take part in training. They can also work or volunteer for another organisation. Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and can continue to train if furloughed.

Whilst it may be difficult to check if work is being undertaken, HMRC expressly retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of employers’ claims. Employers who flout the rules will be committing a criminal offence and will jeopardise all the payments under the coronavirus job retention scheme.

What if the employer gets the 80% and the employee still works anyway?

An employee who is furloughed must not work for the employer at all to be able to claim the salary reimbursement from the government. The grant does not cover the wages of employees who work reduced hours due to the virus. So, it is in the employers’ interests to ensure the employee does not do any work for them.

Furloughed employees can do volunteer work or training without jeopardising the furlough payment, as long as they don’t provide services or generate revenue for the employer.

HMRC retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of employers’ claims. Employers who are found to be abusing the scheme could potentially face criminal prosecution for fraud. Presumably if HMRC discover one employee has in fact been working during the period of furlough this would put the entire grant received for other employees in jeopardy as well. There is also always a risk that HMRC will investigate if another employee or third party notifies them that there has been a breach.

The employee can hold a separate employment with a different and unconnected employer which will be unaffected. See the question ‘what if the employee has a second job?’ for more information.

If employees are on furlough leave can they participate in disciplinary and grievance processes?

Employees who have been furloughed cannot generate revenue or provide services to the employer during the furlough leave period. This creates a problem for some employers operating their disciplinary and grievance processes:

If this continues can employees go on and off furlough?

Yes, if this continues employees can go on and off furlough. Employees must be furloughed for at least three weeks, so, employees can be moved in and out of furlough on a three week or longer basis.

Obviously if the employer’s business is one where employees have no alternative but to physically attend work on a regular or occasional basis, then longer rotations are better. This also decreases the risks of spreading the infection.

What happens about employer National Insurance and pension contributions for furloughed employees?

Employers are still liable for employer NI and employer pension contributions on behalf of their furloughed employees but can claim for these under the scheme. The reclaimable NI and pension elements are based on the furlough salary, not normal salary.

The reimbursement from HMRC covers wages equal to the lower of 80% of the employee’s regular salary or £2,500 per month, plus the associated employer NI and pension (minimum automatic enrolment) contributions.

Whilst minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions can be claimed for as well as the 80% salary any employer contributions above the mandatory contribution are not covered.

If employers choose to top-up the 20% of salary above the 80% grant, then employer NI and pension contribution on the top-up amount will not be funded through the coronavirus job retention scheme.

Whilst minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions that are paid on the subsidised furlough pay can be claimed for as well as the 80% salary, any employer contributions above the mandatory contribution are not covered. The maximum level of grant for employer pension contributions is set in line with the minimum automatic enrolment employer contribution of 3% on qualifying earnings. Grants for pension contributions can be claimed up to this cap as long as the employer pays the whole amount claimed into a pension scheme as the employer’s contribution.

HMRC guidance is available on the government website.

What does the change of payroll date in the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme from 28 February to 19 March mean?

When the government first launched the furlough scheme eligible employees had to be on the employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020. This payroll date has now been extended to 19 March 2020.

The position is that employers can furlough the following employees:

  • Employees where the employer notified HMRC that they were on the payroll before 28 February 2020.
  • Employees who were on the payroll on or before 28 February 2020 but were made redundant, laid off, furloughed or stopped working for the employer before 19 March 2020.Employees placed on payroll after 28 February but  before 19 March 2020 can also now be placed on furlough although HMRC must have been notified of their addition to the PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020.

In all cases the employees must not be doing any work for the employer during furlough and the employer must have a UK payroll and UK bank account and have enrolled for PAYE online.

Employees added to the PAYE payroll after 19 March 2020 cannot be furloughed by the new employer unless there has been a qualifying transfer. 

Which pay period do employers use for salaried employees in their calculations?

Employers should normally base their claim for the 80% of a salaried  employee’s wages on the employee’s last pay period prior to 19 March 2020. 

However, the payroll date under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has changed from 28 February to 19 March. This has made the way in which employers calculate the 80% of the wages more complicated. 

For employers who have already used the previous guidance to make their calculations these employers can make the 80% calculations based on either:

  • the employee’s salary as at 28 February 2020, or
  • the employee’s salary in the last pay period before 19 March 2020.

If there has been another pay period between 28 February and 19 March employers can therefore opt to use either calculation, as they wish. Although these two figures may be the same, in some cases the calculations may be different if another pay period has fallen between before 19 March.

Employers should include any regular payments they are obliged to pay employees in the figure used as the basis of their calculations. This will include wages, past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments. However, discretionary bonus (including troncs and tips) and discretionary commission payments and non-cash payments should not be included.

How do employers calculate the 80% figure for furloughed employees who worked variable hours?

Employers claim for the higher of either:

  • the same month’s earning from 2019; or
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.

If the employee has been employed for less than 12 months before the claim, then the employer has to use an average of the actual monthly earnings since the employee’s start date.

For employees who only started during February or March 2020 the employers will have to use those earnings on a pro rata basis.

What about employees on irregular salaries or variable hours who are placed on furlough?

Irregular salaried employees' furlough pay can be based on a previous earnings average. For employees who have been employed for a full 12 months prior to the claim, the amount is the highest of:

  • the same month’s earning from 2019; or
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.

For employees who have been employed for less than 12 months before the claim, the employer bases their 80% on an average of actual monthly earnings since the employee's start date. If the employee only started part way during February or March, the employer will have to make a pro-rata calculation based on their earnings so far.

Can furloughed workers cash in holiday to top up their 80% salary pay?

The detailed government guidance does not yet address if furloughed workers can cash in holiday to top up their 80% salary pay if the employer has chosen not to top up the pay. However, if holiday is taken employers should probably top up the holiday pay to the full normal salary amount. If it is not taken, annual leave continues to accrue during furlough. 

If employees book holiday time to take off during furlough, employers can claim for 80% of the holiday pay through the grant, in the same way as normal salary. 

Government guidance states that the employer and employee must agree in writing that the employee will cease all work. Depending on the wording of the contract, most employees have to agree to being furloughed anyway, especially if the employer is not topping up their pay.

Can employers require furloughed employees to use up their holiday leave during furlough?

Yes, employers can require furloughed employees to use up their take holiday leave during furlough. Employers may want to do this to reduce outstanding annual leave to be taken once the lockdown ends and businesses return to normal.

Standard employment law provisions (which are not frequently used) state that employers can require force workers to take holiday as long as they give twice as many days’ notice as the period of leave the worker is required to take. For example, if the employer requires the worker to take two week's annual leave at a certain time, it must give the worker at least four weeks' advance notice (or whatever is outlined in the employment contract). 

So, an employer could furlough the employee and require a proportion of that to be annual holiday as long as the requisite notice is given. Insisting an employee take annual leave during a period of furlough, when government advice prevents them from travelling freely anywhere, is not without risk. The employees’ agreement should therefore be sought to take annual leave while on furlough. Employees may agree as it would be on full pay.

Updated Acas guidance clarifies that employees can ask for and take holiday leave as usual while on furlough. However, this remains a complicated issue, particularly in relation to pay, and employers may need to seek specific advice, especially if a disagreement arises.

Should employers pay furloughed employees for bank holidays that fall during furlough?

The furlough scheme is set to run until 30 June 2020, meaning there will be four bank holidays during this time (10 April, 13 April, 8 May and 25 May). Employees who are usually entitled to take bank holidays as holidays will still be able to take these holidays while they are on furlough, unless the employer agrees something different. For example, employees who are working from home may take those days off.

There is currently no detailed government guidance on the relationship between annual leave (including bank holidays) and furlough leave. Based on the existing law, employers should probably pay employees in full for bank holidays that fall during furlough if the employees normally have bank holidays off as part of their contractual holiday entitlement. Alternatively, employers may agree to employees taking compensatory days of annual leave later on.

If employees normally work bank holidays and there is no contractual entitlement to leave then bank holidays will have no effect on their pay during the furlough period, and  their annual leave entitlement will not be affected either.

Do employers have to pay full holiday pay if holiday is taken during a furlough period?

Yes, employers have to pay full holiday pay if holiday is taken during a furlough period.

The guidance is not clear on the relationship between furlough and holiday, the interrelationship is untested and legal advice may need to be taken if a problem arises.

If furloughed workers do not book any holiday time does holiday leave accrue?

Yes, as employees remain employed during furlough leave statutory holiday will accrue during the furlough period. The statutory minimum holiday of 5.6 weeks per year will accrue, but the precise amount of holiday left will depend upon how much holiday the employee has already taken and how much they take during furlough.

If the employer provides contractual holiday, above the statutory amount, employers can ask the employees to agree this will not accrue during furlough. However, the right to accrue annual leave under the Working Time Regulations will continue unless the employee books part of the furlough period as leave.

What happens to workers who have been unable to take their statutory annual leave entitlement due to the coronavirus lockdown or because they have been needed to work?

Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19 have a new legal right be able to carry it over into the next two leave years. Employers’ leave years will vary; in some cases this period aligns with the calendar year, in other cases the financial year, the academic year, or the anniversary of when the employee started employment.

UK workers are usually entitled to 28 days holiday per year including bank holidays. This entitlement cannot normally be carried forward into the next leave year unless the employee:

  • agrees this with the employer; or
  • is on long-term sickness absence; or
  • is on maternity leave and unable to take all of her entitlement as a result.

Payments in lieu of holiday are usually disallowed unless the worker is leaving the employer. However, this has been changed under amendments to the Working Time Regulations. The new provisions:

  • To prevent workers losing their holiday and to enable key workers to keep working, the normal rules on carrying over annual leave have been modified. This will support provision of staff in key sectors (such as food and healthcare) during the pandemic without them losing out on holiday entitlement.
  • Employers can now allow up to four weeks (not the full 28 days) of unused leave to be carried into the next two leave years. The rules say that it must be ‘not reasonably practicable’ for the worker to take some, or all, of the holiday to which they are entitled due to the coronavirus. If so, they can carry four weeks forward for two years.

Can I place an employee on furlough instead of Statutory Sick Pay?

Employees on who are on sick leave or self-isolating should normally get Statutory Sick Pay. There has now been additional government guidance on this:

  • If an employee is on sick leave or self-isolating due to Coronavirus, the employee should be on Statutory Sick Pay. The illness or self-isolation should not be a trigger in deciding whether to furlough an employee. Employers can place employees on furlough leave after their sick pay period if appropriate. The furlough scheme is not intended as an alternative for sickness absence, the illness may be short term and furlough periods are at least 3 weeks. 
  • If employers are in the process of furloughing employees anyway for business reasons and some employees are off sick, the employer can furlough the sick employees with other staff. In these cases, the employee will receive furlough pay instead of Statutory Sick Pay because the furlough will end their sick pay entitlement.
  • If an employee is already on furlough leave when they become ill the guidance suggests that it is the employer’s choice whether to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate of pay, or end the period of furlough and move the employee onto Statutory Sick Pay.
  • If an employee is moved onto Statutory Sick Pay employers must cease the claim for the furlough salary. 

Employers may qualify for a rebate for up to two weeks of Statutory Sick Pay. Employers can claim a grant under both the furlough scheme and the sick pay rebate scheme for the same employee, but not for the same period of time. 

Although employees who are receiving Statutory Sick Pay cannot claim furlough pay, employees who are on long-term sick leave can be furloughed. HMRC guidance on the scheme was updated to confirm that the scheme is not intended as an alternative for short-term sickness absences, but employers can furlough employees who are on sick including those off on long-term sick leave if there is a business reason. 

What if we want to bring employees back from furlough early (because other people get sick)? Do we lose the ability to claim three weeks of 80% and need to increase their pay for those weeks?

If employers bring employees back from furlough early because other people become sick the employer will lose the ability to claim three weeks of 80% and will need to increase the employee’s pay for those weeks.

Staff can be furloughed and return to work and then be furloughed again for as long as the scheme is operational. However, each furlough period must be for a minimum of three consecutive weeks. If an individual is only furloughed for one or two weeks and is then summoned back to working (either working from home or in the workplace) then the employer cannot claim under the scheme for the contribution to pay for that period.

Church Buildings & Property

We have some work on our church building which is meant to be taking place soon. Can that still go ahead?

Decisions on whether or not to allow construction to take place sits with the PCC or Chapter. This guidance from the Church of England aims to help clergy, PCCs and cathedral Chapters decide whether it is safe and appropriate to allow construction work to begin or re-start on their buildings:

The church building is now closed for the crisis. Does that have any implications for our insurance?

It is often a condition of insurance that where buildings are not being used, they should be regularly inspected – preferably weekly. A suggestion is that someone could inspect the church as part of taking their exercise walk. Ecclesiastical Insurance have more information on this here. Those who are insured with Trinitas should contact them for advice. If your church is insured with another provider, please contact them.

Can we cut our churchyard grass?

The Government’s guidance is clear that people should only leave their homes for essential purposes. Regrettably, this does not include maintaining churchyards. The only exception to this would be to enable safe access to a grave or Garden of Remembrance for a burial or interment. Such work should be kept to the minimum required.

Can we hire out our hall or allow others to use our premises?

From our Registrar:

  • Where a PCC has a church hall which is used by other groups, it should consider whether it would be appropriate for it to take steps to support HM Government’s guidance on social distancing.
  • Where a lease or licence is in place, this will regulate the formal relationship between the parties, and care should be taken not to act in a way which may be considered to be a breach by the PCC of the terms of the lease or licence.
  • Where there is no such agreement, the PCC should take such action (which may include closing the hall for use in certain circumstances and in light of the clear advice of the Government) as appears to it to be appropriate. The PCC should adopt a consistent approach to all users.
  • A PCC will wish to be mindful of the fact that in the local community, many may not distinguish between the PCC as the ‘owner’ of a property and other groups as users, and so the behaviour of users is rightly a matter of concern to the PCC.

What about notices for faculties?

From our Registrar:

  • It is a statutory requirement that public notice be given, in a specified form, in relation to most petitions for faculty. Public notices must normally be displayed both inside and outside the relevant church or churches.
  • In view of the restriction on public worship and the closure of church buildings, the display of public notices will no longer achieve the intended degree of publicity for the proposals contained in the petition.
  • Where a parish wishes to petition for a faculty at this exceptional time, the petitioners are invited to consider in what other ways, in addition to the statutory notices which must still be displayed inside and outside the church, publicity may be given to the proposals. Such publicity might take the form of a copy of the public notice on a village noticeboard or on a parish website.
  • Whilst it will be a matter for the Commissary General to determine on the merits of each case, this is intended to assist parishes in being able to secure a faculty for non-contentious matters without delay, even where there is no public access to the church.
  • In an emergency situation, it will remain possible for an interim faculty to be obtained. Parishes should approach Edmund Harris, the DAC Secretary and the Archdeacon for advice in the first instance, as usual.

Can I still get support from the DAC? 

DAC meetings have been suspended until further notice and any vital business will be transacted by e-mail. Apart from some cases already being processed where decisions can be taken and communicated easily, the work of the DAC will be on an emergency-only basis.

As site visits are not now possible, all discussion of new development projects and non-essential repair work will be placed on hold until further notice. Most - if not all - cases which do require a decision will be handled by the Standing Committee with appropriate expert advice. 

The Registry is still functioning but at a reduced level, since its staff are now working from home. Therefore, only urgent casework can be dealt with, such as temporary works following an emergency. All quinquennial inspections that have fallen due should be postponed until further notice.

However, the DAC team remains committed to providing parishes with all the support and advice that they need to keep their buildings in good shape and fit for purpose. They will add all incoming queries to a waiting list for processing when all the restrictions have been removed and normal service can resume.If you have any queries, please contact Edmund Harris.

In 'ordinary' times, our church hall is usually used by a nursery or preschool. Can they continue to use the property as they re-open?

Where a nursery is in a church hall or any other building, then there is nothing to stop it reopening in line with the normal Government guidance (and many may have remained open for the children of keyworkers). However, where a nursery is held in the church building itself, this is technically still not possible under Government guidance, for the time being.

Diocesan Staff & Parish Support

We have taken the decision to close Diocesan House from 24 March, 2020 and all Diocesan Staff have been enabled to work from home. However, the Diocesan staff team remains committed to supporting you as you our frontline workers during this national crisis - and (as long as they remain well) will continue to be available to you by phone and email, whether they do it from an office or their kitchen table. If you have any queries, please don't hesitate to call Diocesan House on 01227 459401 - we will continue to run a switchboard service from this number. 

Parish & Diocesan Finances

We have received a number of questions from church officers concerned about their church’s financial situation given the radical actions being taken by our government to curtail the further spread of the Coronavirus and to protect those most vulnerable in our communities.

In particular we are aware of the concerns about the suspension of public worship in our churches and the cancellation of church based events and the impact all this will have on parish finances. Understandably we expect parish income to be reduced and, as this is unlikely to be matched by similar reductions in church expenditure, we understand that there will be a negative impact on parish finances.

We have asked the National Church for financial assistance during these exceptional times and they are working out what might be possible, so we are unable to be more specific about what that mean for Canterbury Diocese until we have a formal response from them - please bear with us. 

As Archbishop Justin said, the Church of England is not closing down – but Church is changing. This has to be so if the Church of England is to continue to be the Church for England - our ministry is now needed more than ever in so many different ways.

People are confused, vulnerable, losing jobs, insecure, fearful, unwell, dying and asking a great deal of questions. We must make sure our front line ministers are able to be there for those most in need, freed from uncertainties about their own situation. But it is Parish Share that provides the means by which these ministers are resourced. They also need to be sure of the support of our diocesan officers when they turn to them - as they are now doing increasingly - to help them to offer support to their communities. Our Diocesan House is endeavouring to stay open as long as it is possible and permitted to do so, but even if it has to close , our staff will continue to resource parish ministry however we can through remote working.

It is tempting at the times of reducing church income to simply stop or reduce the payment of Parish Share, but Canterbury Diocese does not have the funds and reserves to support our ministry if there are wholesale reductions in Parish Share payments.

So can we encourage all churches to please ensure that they continue to pay as much Parish Share as they are able, within the constraints of their own reduced income? We are making every effort to reduce our non-essential costs as far as possible. We hope that if we all seek to work together in faith and generosity we can support all those on our front line ministry to bring the hope of the gospel of Christ into a hugely challenging national and international situation.

To make you aware of what we are doing at a diocesan level to manage this challenging financial situation:

  • We are in regular conversation with the Church Commissioners, who have agreed to offer us a loan to cover stipends for the coming period. We will also be exploring what other options there may be for support from the National Church. 
  • We are also seeking to make use of the Government's recently-announced Job Retention Scheme, allowing staff to effectively take extended time off work but continue to receive their salary, heavily subsided by the Government - thus saving some of our budgeted spend. This may be something that can be explored locally with church employees. We are seeking to do this in a way which does not impede essential support for parish ministry - please be assured that the team remains here to help you. 

Resources: 

Canterbury Cathedral

Prayer for those affected by Coronavirus

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen

Find more prayer and worship resources here