Registrars left with no income in furlough complaint

Essex County Council has been accused of treating registrars in a “disgraceful way” after they have been left with no income as they come off furlough – despite a lack of weddings to preside over.

The council has a number of zero hour contract registrars who perform wedding ceremonies around licensed venues throughout the county.

They have been on furlough since March, but now the Government has agreed that small ceremonies are allowed to take place again from July 4, the appropriate number of sessional ceremony officers have been unfurloughed in order that they can be scheduled to carry out the ceremonies required.

This decision to withdraw furlough pay arrangements for these workers from July 1 comes even though there have been no weddings booked and therefore no immediate prospect for payment for registrars.

One registrar, who did not want to be named, said: “Whilst the Essex Council website states weddings will recommence from July 4, no wedding schedules have been sent out to the registrars, meaning there are no weddings and no weddings means no pay.

“It’s an absolute disgraceful way to treat hard-working and dedicated representatives of the council.”

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We furloughed the majority of sessional ceremony officers on 100 per cent of their payments from 14 March 2020 in line with government guidelines.

“Now that the Government has agreed that small ceremonies are allowed to take place again from July 4, the appropriate number of sessional ceremony officers have been unfurloughed in order that they can be scheduled to carry out the ceremonies required.

“Staff were advised this could happen any time after the 30 June in line with the business need. The three days notice period was only required where staff could be asked to resume work before the end of the furlough period, in line with government advice.

“Sessional ceremony officer furlough payments have been based on earnings received last year in the absence of any scheduled work. We will also confirm to sessional ceremony officers that they will receive a further 100 per cent furlough payment as part of July payroll (as they are normally paid in arrears).

“Sessional ceremony officers have been contacted about their availability for July ceremonies and scheduled rotas have been prepared. Individual concerns from staff about their payments are confidential and are being managed by the service.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter