The pause in the property market during the coronavirus crisis has led the UK’s largest housebuilder, Barratt Developments, to furlough 5,500 staff.
It is thought that the number equates to 85% of the company’s workforce.
Barratt said it would top up the salaries of the laid off employees so that they received full pay until at least the end of May.
In addition, the company’s board has agreed to a 20% reduction in base salary and fees until the group can return to site work. There will also be no pay rises for the 2021 financial year.
The company closed its offices, sales centres and some construction sites in the final week of March.
The company said it continued to be “financially strong”. Nevertheless, it is thought to be looking at applying for further government support, which is likely to include the Bank of England’s coronavirus emergency financing scheme.
A statement from Barratt said: “We are in the process of furloughing around 85% of our employees. We will pay furloughed employees their normal pay while they are furloughed until at least the end of May 2020.”
It added that Barratt will “actively managing cash flows whilst ensuring that we are paying our suppliers and subcontractors on time.”
Barratt said: “Our experienced Board remains focused on taking the right actions and planning for the future, so that when appropriate to do so, we can re-start our sales centres, construction sites and offices safely and are well-placed to continue to deliver the high quality homes the country needs.”
Barratt Homes hasn’t entirely given up on the idea of stoking interest among homebuyers during the lockdown, however. It’s website offers to take people on “a virtual tour of many of our developments and homes, all from the comfort of your sofa – simply visit your chosen development to access this information.”
Meanwhile, estate agent Foxtons has cut pay for higher earners and furloughed hundreds of staff members.
Employees who take home more than £40,000 annually have been asked to take a 20% pay cut for April and May.
Foxtons’ boss, Nic Budden, said the London property market had been “severely disrupted” by lockdown measures.
The London firm wants to cut its monthly outgoings from £9m to £3m by the end of April.
All of its branches have been closed since 23 March.