The Salvation Army has raised concerns that the government's rules on furlough could result in a "devastating shortage of volunteers."
Since the coronavirus crisis, if a company is unable to operate or has no work during the pandemic, workers can be put "on furlough". This means they are kept on the payroll and not made redundant even if they are not working.
Businesses can claim 80 per cent of their employees' wages from the government but are then restricted from accepting furloughed workers as volunteers within their organisation.
The Salvation Army, which relies heavily on volunteers for key services such as foodbanks and night shelters, has called for a review of the guidelines as many of its employees volunteer in positions unrelated to their job as part of their personal service to the church.
The charity claims that unless the rules are clarified to ensure that this would not be a breach of Government guidelines, the church and charity could suffer a dramatic loss in volunteers, which in turn could impact vital services at a time when they are needed most.
"A number of our employees who are being furloughed also worship at The Salvation Army. They are part of our faith community and many in their own personal time volunteer for other parts of the Army.
"While we agree with the intention to safeguard the Job Retention Scheme from abuse, we do not believe it is the Government's intention to prevent people from participating in the life of their faith community, such as ours," Lieutenant Colonel Dean Pallant, Secretary for Communications at The Salvation Army wrote to Baroness Barran MBE at the Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport.
The Salvation Army has proposed that employees who are furloughed should be able to participate in activities usually undertaken by volunteers in their faith community but not in any areas associated with their contracted work.