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22,000 Temporarily Laid Off at Spanish Department Store

Spain’s only department store chain is temporarily laying off thousands of workers in a bid to gain a financial reprieve.

On Wednesday, El Corte Inglés announced plans to furlough 22,000 of its more than 90,000 employees for 14 days. The retail company is taking advantage of a government measure that grants unemployment insurance to workers on short-term furlough because of COVID-19. Since the Spanish government declared a state of alarm, similar to the U.S.’s state of emergency, businesses across the country have been forced to shut down in the name of force majeure due to the outbreak of coronavirus that has sparked at least 56,188 cases and killed more than 4,089.

El Corte Inglés stressed that employees will not lose their jobs and will receive almost all of their wages. The government’s plan offers a base amount to mitigate the economic impact from store closures due to the pandemic. El Corte in turn said it would supplement those baseline benefits to bring the total amount that laid off workers receive to what it would have been had they still been working.

The actual time frame for the layoffs is unknown, but will continue for however long the government’s state of alarm remains in effect.

El Corte said the planned layoffs also apply to the 2,000 employees at its Sfera fashion chain and to its Viajes El Corte Inglés operation, impacting 1,900 staff members.

El Corte, based in Madrid, is the largest department store in Europe and the third largest worldwide.

Retailers worldwide ahave been hit hard by the pandemic, keeping stores closed and forcing tough decisions on headcount.

H&M earlier this week said it would lay off tens of thousands of workers, while Nordstrom on Wednesday said it will begin furloughs.