Norton Rose Fulbright sign Norton Rose Fulbright is the latest firm to set up pre-emptive measures against disruption caused by the coronavirus. Credit: Mike Scarcella/ALM

Norton Rose Fulbright is offering staff reduced working hours and pay for one year in response to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as deferring the payment of partner distributions, staff salary rises and bonuses for both groups.

If 75% of eligible staff take up the reduced hours offer, which means they could be asked in the next 12 months to reduce their working hours and pay by 20%, the new programme will commence on April 20.

The sign-up process will take place during the next two weeks and is available to select staff across the firm’s Europe, Middle East and Asia offices.

People at the lower end of the salary spectrum may also see a reduction in their working week by 20%, but their salary reductions will be lower, reduced down on a tapered basis from 20% to 5%, according to a firm statement.

EMEA managing partner Peter Scott said in the statement: “In this current crisis, we believe it is prudent to take pre-emptive action to protect our people and our business. The key for us is to ensure that we can respond rapidly to any future changes in levels and types of work at an unprecedented time for the global economy.

“We know this is a challenging time for all of our people and we want to safeguard jobs as far as possible. It is likely that not all parts of the business will be adversely affected by the current situation, so it is quite possible that employees who have signed up to the scheme in some parts of the business will not be required to reduce their working hours.”

Norton Rose is the latest firm to attempt to mitigate the potential financial risks the outbreak is likely to cause. This week, Allen & Overy called for partners to invest capital into the firm in an effort to face the disruption caused by the virus.

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