In a recent trading update, the UK’s biggest house-builder – Barratt Developments – has announced that it will repay all the furlough money it has claimed from the government.
The firm officially furloughed 6,700 of its employees since the scheme was introduced to help employers across the country.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Barratt introduced a series of measures to manage the group’s cost base and cash flows to ensure resilience, including the use of the furlough scheme.
Barratt suspended all land-buying activity, ceased all recruitment activity, cancelled its interim dividend (which was due to be paid on 11 May 2020), and senior management took a voluntary reduction in base salary.
A statement from the company read: “Following our establishment of extensive COVID-19 working practices and protocols, we gradually restarted our site operations from 11 May 2020 in England and Wales and from 1 June 2020 in Scotland. As a result, all of our construction sites were operational at 30 June 2020 and all our employees, other than those shielding, have now returned to the business.
“Through the temporary closure of the business, where around 85% of our employees were placed on furlough, we used the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. All of our employees, other than those shielding, have now returned from furlough. We are grateful for the support that the Government has provided to UK businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allowed us to safeguard the jobs of our c. 6,700 employees during the height of the pandemic. However, our financial position has remained resilient; therefore, we will now repay all furlough funds received.”
David Thomas, Chief Executive commented: “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Group was delivering a strong year of progress on both volume and margin. The pandemic has caused significant disruption, but our highly skilled and experienced team have shown incredible resilience, flexibility and commitment both through the peak of the crisis and in the careful reopening of our sites.
“Now, with our construction sites operational across the UK, we begin the new financial year with cautious optimism supported by our strong forward order book and our well-capitalised balance sheet.”