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London's Norton Rose Explores Reduced Work Hours as Layoff PreventativeNorton Rose is set to institute a radical flex-work plan as the London law firm moves to head off job cuts. If approved, the groundbreaking measure, which would include partners, would see staff earn 85 percent of their salary for a four-day workweek, while sabbatical leave of four to 12 weeks would be paid out at 30 percent of base salary. Norton Rose is one of the few top 50 U.K. law firms to avoid formal layoffs so far.
Legal Week2009-03-13 12:00:00 AM
Norton Rose is set to implement a radical flexi-working scheme as the London law firm moves to head off job cuts.
The unusual inititative will see Norton Rose put forward a proposed change in all staff's employment conditions for one year that will allow Norton Rose to put staff on a four-day week and/or paid sabbatical of four to 12 weeks.
The groundbreaking scheme, which will also include partners, would see staff earn 85 percent of their salary for a four-day week, while the sabbatical option would be paid out at 30 percent of base salary.
The firm proposed the measure to staff Thursday and the scheme, which would cap individual salary reductions at 20 percent of annual pay, is subject to approval later this month. If approved, the scheme will run from May 1, 2009.
Norton Rose chief executive Peter Martyr told Legal Week that the firm was aiming to protect jobs.
He said: "This is something that we have been working on for some time and we thought it would be sensible to get something so that we don't have to do down the redundancy route. We feel it is prudent to have something in place so that we can try to safeguard jobs next year."
The scheme has been rolled out through the firm's London office and, subject to local employment laws, the firm is expecting to bring its international network in line.
Though a handful of law firms have used schemes that see staff individually sign up to reduced working hours, Norton Rose's stance in proposing to be able to temporarily put any member of its entire staff on reduced hours is unusual in law. The firm is one of the few top 50 U.K. law firms to have so far avoided formal redundancies.
Martyr added: "We believe it is prudent to take pre-emptive action to protect our business and our staff in case things get worse next year. The key for us is to ensure that we can respond rapidly to any future changes in levels of work and that is why we have worked on this strategy. We see an advantage in maintaining our reputation as good employers and we hope to be able to maintain the strength of the practice so that we can take immediate advantage of the upturn when it arrives".
Alan Jarvis, head of employment, pensions and benefits at Denton Wilde Sapte commented: "This is the first time in recent memory that a firm has introduced a four-day working week. There can be continuity issues for certain areas of work, both because of the nature of the work and the fact that clients are still working a five-day week. There are advantages but also difficulties."