Barratt furloughs over 5,500 staff on full pay

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Britain’s biggest housebuilder is furloughing more than 5,500 employees to preserve cash as home sales stall.

Barratt Developments said that about 85 per cent of its workforce would be laid off temporarily until at least the end of May.

The company will top up the salaries of those put on the government’s job retention scheme, which covers 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 a month, so that they receive full pay until at least the end of May.

Its board and executive directors have agreed to a 20 per cent reduction in base salary and fees until the group is able to restart work on site. They also have agreed to waive any pay increase for the 2021 financial year.

Barratt is the country’s biggest builder by volume. It sold 17,856 homes last year for an average price of £274,400.

The company closed its offices, sales centres and construction sites last month amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19. It has sold 11,713 homes in the year to date, up from 10,954 over the same period last year. It has a forward sales book valued at £2.9 billion. It said yesterday, however, that it now expected “any further home completions and reservations to be very limited”.

The company said that it continued to be “financially strong”. Nevertheless, it is considering applying for further government support, which is likely to include the Bank of England’s coronavirus emergency financing scheme.

Barratt’s financial guidance remains suspended as a result of the continuing uncertainty, “particularly in the duration of the closure of our sales centres and construction sites”.

Shares in the company, which is a member of the FTSE 100 index, rose by 27½p, or 6.3 per cent, to 460¾p.