City firms are beginning to pay back the money they received under the government’s job retention scheme in the light of stronger financial performance than forecast.

Osborne Clarke, which placed 116 employees on furlough during lockdown, together with Herbert Smith Freehills and Norton Rose Fulbright, have returned all the money they received to HM Revenue & Customs.

Meanwhile, Eversheds Sutherland said it is likely to repay the funds after a stronger summer than predicted.

The City has also begun to loosen emergency cashflow measures introduced at the height of lockdown, with magic circle firm Slaughter and May reinstating partner distributions. Hogan Lovells has brought back UK pay reviews, applying retrospectively to 1 May.

Amid signs of market confidence, however, are hundreds of job cuts.

Earlier this month, national firm Freeths laid off 19 lawyers and axed 11 support staff roles. Redundancy consultations have also been announced by Ince, Weightmans, Squire Patton Boggs, Irwin Mitchell, Reed Smith, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and BLM.

Meanwhile, Pinsent Mason still has 86 people on full-time furlough and 10 on part-time furlough. A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘From the beginning of the pandemic our approach has been to manage our response by making decisions in real time, as and when it’s necessary to do so. Or to put another way, to only decide today what we need to decide today.

‘We will continue to monitor the economic landscape and will make a decision about the repayment of furlough funds later in the financial year.’

The coronavirus job retention scheme is due to close on 31 October.