Coronavirus: Age UK to furlough 70% of staff

Age UK is the latest charity to announce plans to furlough 70% of staff as it battles with soaring requests amid a decline in income.

The national charity for the elderly is furloughing 1,200 of its staff, the majority of which (1,100) work across the charity's 400 shops, which have been forced to close amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The charity said it has taken the decision 'with regret' but as a 'necessary step' in aid of cutting costs following what it describes as a 'dramatic loss of income'.

All income from the charity's shops has stopped, while many of the associated outgoings still need to be paid. The charity is also experiencing a loss from cancelled or postponed fundraising events, such as the London Marathon.

Meanwhile, demand for the charity's services has soared as older people – who are most at risk of coronavirus – have been advised to stay at home and have been seeking authoritative 'information, advice and emotional support'.

Age UK chief executive, Steph Harland, said: "Age UK is by no means alone in this, many other charities have been hit hard financially too. But the tragedy is that just when we should be focusing 110% on helping older people we are being diverted by the need to manage our way through these treacherous financial waters.

"No one could reasonably have foreseen how some of the mainstays of charitable income have simply been washed away overnight, nor put in place plans to fully mitigate them.

"That's why I hope the government will listen to the umbrella bodies representing charities and create the stabilisation fund they are calling for. This would not only make a big difference to charities, but to the people and communities we serve too."

Some of the UK's largest charities have already announced similar furloughing plans, including Oxfam, Barnardo's, National Trust, Alzheimer's Society and Cancer Research UK.

Under the scheme, employees will be kept on the payroll, despite not working. They will be paid 80% of their wages by the government and the organisation they work for can choose to pay the remaining 20%. Employees can be paid up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

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