RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney set out the job losses as he said the union expected to lose £107million in revenue in the short term.
The union will begin a consultation process with staff before announcing decisions at the end of next month, Sweeney said.
This will be a difficult process, but we will be consulting with colleagues in a fair way to completely remodel our business
“We are having to make difficult decisions on what we can continue to invest in as well as what is the right size and shape of our business for the future,” Sweeney wrote in a statement on englandrugby.com.
“To ensure we have a sustainable RFU we have announced to colleagues that it is proposed that the total number of roles across the organisation will reduce by 139.”
Sweeney added: “This will be a difficult process, but we will be consulting with colleagues in a fair way to completely remodel our business.”
He said the RFU was projecting a recovery period which could last up to five years, with a cumulative 20 per cent loss of revenue over that time frame.
Sweeney said that, despite the plans to remodel and operate in a very different way, the priorities of the RFU remained to support the community game, maintaining the ability of England representative sides to compete and to encourage people from a range of backgrounds to participate in the sport.
The RFU has suffered from being unable to host England matches at Twickenham so far this year, with no certainty over when supporters might be able to return.
Sweeney added: “We have already made some significant cost savings. We furloughed 60 per cent of our organisation; implemented a three-month pay reduction which has been extended for some; introduced pension pauses; and refined business planning and introduced stadium and office running efficiencies to reduce costs.
“Unfortunately, this is not enough to run a sustainable operation and safeguard our future.
“We need to maintain our organisation for the long term, this is not a short-term cost reduction exercise, the RFU will still stand, but the impact of Covid 19 will continue to affect us for many years to come.”