JCB has stopped production at all of its UK manufacturing plants as the coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented drop in demand for the machinery it makes.

It is suspending UK production until at least the end of April at nine manufacturing plants in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham.

Initially, only shop floor employees were affected by the move and were paid in full during this period, while office staff continued to work a 39-hour week from home.

The latest news means the vast majority of JCB’s 6500-strong workforce will now be asked to stop working until at least the end of April.

During this period, all affected JCB employees will be paid 80% of their basic pay. Meanwhile, senior JCB directors will not be taking a salary ‘until further notice’.

CEO Graeme Macdonald said: “These measures are unprecedented in the history of JCB but are absolutely necessary to protect the business. As we continue to deal with the health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more challenging to maintain business continuity in this volatile economic climate. JCB is a global exporter and worldwide demand for our products has dropped sharply as customers cancel orders and defer deliveries.

"This is not just a UK issue, it is worldwide and with countries like France, Spain and Italy going into lock-down, those key markets for construction equipment disappear overnight," he said.

“In light of this fast-changing situation, we need to re-plan our production. This will allow us to take stock of the situation, re-plan our order book, prioritise products that are definitely required by customers, and ensure parts and components are reassigned to support the production of these products.”

JCB’s plant in Pudong, near Shanghai, ceased production last month as the impact of the pandemic initially took hold. After several weeks of disruption, the factory is now fully operational again.