Oxfam to furlough staff in response to Covid-19

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Immediate release Thursday 26 March

Resources to be focused on protecting communities

Oxfam today announced that it would furlough about two-thirds of its UK workforce under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, including most shop staff, in response to the effects of Covid-19.

The international agency said the need to temporarily halt some activities – including the closure of its shops – and the resulting reduction in income, required it to take measures to adapt to the new circumstances and to ensure that it is able to respond to the threat posed by the coronavirus to the communities it works with.

Oxfam’s shops have been closed since last weekend and a number of key fundraising events, including music festivals and the London Marathon have been cancelled or postponed. On Monday, the charity confirmed that 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 £7 million.

About two-thirds of furloughed staff will come from Oxfam’s trading operation. All shop managers, deputy shop managers and staff at Oxfam’s online hubs and Batley recycling warehouse will be amongst the staff furloughed.

Oxfam is working to scale up its response to Covid-19 in the 65 countries it works in around the globe. It is already responding in a number of countries including Iraq, Bangladesh, and Kenya. It is distributing soap to families and disinfectant to health centres and is stepping up public health awareness activities that will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB Chief Executive, said: “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.

“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 cease work until 1 June, although Oxfam said it would keep the situation under review. Details of 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 that as a living wage employer it would ensure that all furloughed staff continue to be paid at least the living wage.

Notes to editors:

Staff furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will remain employed by Oxfam but will not carry out work for the international agency for the period of their furlough.

Oxfam employs about 2,100 staff in the UK.