Oxfam will place about two-thirds of its UK workforce on leave under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, including most shop staff.
The charity said it would focus on areas where activity had been reduced or halted by the outbreak.
Oxfam's shops have been closed since last weekend and a number of key fundraising events have been cancelled or postponed.
Monthly income from Oxfam’s shop network is normally around £7m.
Furloughed staff will cease work until 1 June, although Oxfam said it would keep the situation under review.
These people will remain employed by Oxfam but will not carry out work for the charity for the period of their furlough.
The exact number of staff to be furloughed has not been announced. Oxfam employs about 2,100 staff in the UK, so the figure is likely to be around 1,400.
As a living wage employer, the charity has said it will ensure that all furloughed staff continue to be paid at least the living wage.
The majority of furloughed staff will come from Oxfam’s trading operation. All shop managers, deputy shop managers and staff at Oxfam’s online hubs will be among the staff furloughed.
The government scheme was announced last Friday and means that any employer that furloughs staff can claim a grant to cover 80% of their wages. Oxfam is the first large charity to announce that it is making use of the scheme.
‘We have been left with no option but to act’
Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB, 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.”
Oxfam to scale up Covid-19 response
Oxfam also is working to scale up its response to Covid-19 in the 65 countries it works in.
It is distributing disinfectants to health centres and increasing public health awareness activities in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.
It is currently responding to the Covid-19 crisis in Iraq, Bangladesh and Kenya.
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