Barratt, Crest and Countryside temporarily standing down staff in wake of covid-19 shutdown

Several of the biggest UK housebuilders have said they will furlough staff as they fight to stem the damage from the coronavirus pandemic which has shut down the much of the industry.

Last week, Redrow said it had furloughed 80% of its staff – around 1,800 people – while another listed housebuilder, MJ Gleeson, said it had furloughed three quarters of its employees, more than 450 staff.

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Housing sites have closed because of the covid-19 pandemic

Now Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Countryside and Crest Nicholson have all confirmed they are furloughing staff in response to the crisis, following their decisions to shut their construction sites after the imposition of lockdown measures by Boris Johnson more than three weeks ago.

Furloughed workers retain their jobs but are not allowed to work for the company during the period of furlough, while their employers can choose to top up their income beyond the 80% paid by the government up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Last week estate agent Savills said sites capable of delivering 193,000 homes had been shut down since the prime minister’s announcement on 23 March.

A spokesperson for the UK’s largest housebuilder by volume, Barratt, said the business was furloughing “a large proportion of our employees as we have temporarily closed our sales centres, construction sites and offices”.

He did not specify how many of the firm’s 6,500 employees would be affected but said they would have pay topped up so they are still paid 100% of their normal income.

Crest Nicholson said the firm had furloughed 74% of its workforce and had “agreed to top up salaries to 100% of current levels until the end of May and will review then as appropriate”. According to its most recent data, the firm had just over 1,000 employees in 2018 meaning around 750 will have been furloughed. The spokesperson added Crest had not made any redundancies.

And a spokesperson for Countryside said it also hadn’t made redundancies but “has furloughed workers all of whom are being paid 100% of salary”. But the firm declined to say how many employees were affected.

Taylor Wimpey did not respond to requests for information but a source close to the housebuilder said the firm will be furloughing a significant number of employees “where appropriate” but will be topping up salaries to 100%.

But the UK’s most profitable housebuilder, Persimmon, said it had not furloughed any employees, despite announcing last month it was shutting sites and sales offices. The firm said it was keeping the decision under review.