Coronavirus: Oxfam to furlough two-thirds of staff

Oxfam has announced it will furlough around two-thirds of its UK workforce, including most shop staff, in response to effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Employees will be told to take a leave of absence under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as the charity is forced to temporarily halt certain activities and close shops, causing an immediate reduction in income.

The charity’s shops have been closed since last weekend and a number of key fundraising events – including the London Marathon and Glastonbury – have been cancelled or postponed.

Oxfam said on Monday it would suspend all sales of second-hand goods from its online shop and phase out collections of donated items to protect the health of staff, volunteers and the public.

Monthly gross income from Oxfam’s shop network is normally around £7m.

The furloughed staff will come from Oxfam’s trading operation, including all shop managers, deputy shop managers and staff at Oxfam’s online hubs and recycling warehouses.

The charity said it is currently working to scale up its response to the pandemic in the 65 countries it works in around the world. Part of this process includes distributing soap to families and disinfectant to health centres, as well as ramping up public health awareness to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“Faced with reduced income and the urgent need to prioritise our response to Covid-19, we have been left with no option but to act,” Oxfam GB chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah said.

“I would like to thank our staff who have worked tirelessly in the last few weeks to adapt to the unprecedented situation we find ourselves – keeping shops open as long as possible, designing and delivering work to combat Covid-19 and carrying on supplying clean water and other vital support in the refugee camps and communities we work in.

“Covid-19 has brought tragedy and immense disruption to the UK and countries across the world and Oxfam is not immune from its effects. Our challenge now is to do everything we can to protect the people we work with from its deadly spread – many of whom are already hungry, homeless or without healthcare. It is one we are determined to meet.”

Furloughed staff will stop working until 1 June, although Oxfam said it would keep the situation under review.

Other details about the move, including the exact number of staff to be furloughed as part of the Job Retention Scheme, will be decided after discussions with staff. Oxfam said it would focus on areas where activity had been reduced or halted by the outbreak.

Oxfam said it would ensure all furloughed staff continue to be paid at least the living wage.

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