London-based coffee roaster Volcano Coffee Works has written an open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for furloughed employees to be allowed to work, after a survey revealed 86% want to support rebuilding the British economy.
Volcano's #RatherBeWorking campaign, supported by Young Foodies, the UK's largest community of food and drink SMEs, revealed that of 1,000 furloughed employees surveyed about their views on returning to work, 86% said they were "ready and willing to work" whilst on furlough "to improve the chances of their employer's business surviving" the lasting effects of the lockdown.
In addition, 82% of furloughed employees said they felt a "sense of duty" to contribute to the recovery of the British economy while on furlough.
The #RatherBeWorking campaigners believe that keeping furloughed staff at home on 80% of their salary under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is damaging the UK economy.
Emma Loisel, co-founder and chair of Volcano Coffee Works, which supplies hospitality businesses and offices across the UK and Paris and who commissioned the survey, also found that 72% of employees feared their employer would cease trading during the Covid-19 pandemic and, even if the business survived, 59% worried they would be made redundant anyway.
Loisel said: "The British economy is facing its darkest hours since WWII. Just like in WWII, Britain today needs all hands on deck. Human capital is our greatest resource, we need to invest these resources in our SMEs, now.
"This is not about SMEs wanting more, it's about us wanting to work together to do more. Britain is already bearing this huge cost, but today it's a sunk cost, instead it could become the greatest investment into our economy's future."
She said that by starting the campaign and writing to the chancellor, they were asking for workers to contribute to Britain's future: "Simply change the rule - allow furloughed workers to work for their employers. Done right, this could cost no more and be the greatest investment ever made in British SMEs."
Theadora Alexander, co-founder of Young Foodies, called the campaign a "no-brainer" and said it "made no sense" for the government to restrict people from supporting their employers, effectively putting the brakes on the economy and making it harder for businesses to recover.
"On behalf of hundreds of our member brands and our own company who have had to furlough staff to survive, we fully support the #RatherBeWorking campaign and echo their call for a more collaborative new normal," she said.
A further announcement regarding the CJRS is expected from the chancellor today, with part-time furlough options mooted as a way to ease people back to work.