Global firm Eversheds Sutherland has announced it will reduce the earnings and working patterns of some lawyers and staff by up to 20% during the coronavirus crisis.
The ‘Flexing the Working Week Scheme’ allows the firm to reduce the working time of teams who are less busy over the coming months, with an associated reduction in pay for any period spent ‘on flex’. There are no associated reduction in benefits.
The scheme takes effect from 1 June and does not apply to trainees, apprentices or those whose basic salary is under a certain threshold. Teams can be moved ‘on’ and ‘off’ flex throughout the next six months, matching capacity with work volumes and based on client demand.
It will apply across the UK and international business and follows a firm-wide consultation.
Lee Ranson, chief executive, said: ‘From the very start of the Covid-19 outbreak, we have said that we want to protect not only the strength of the business but also the jobs of our people.
‘To support this, we now want to introduce our Flexing the Working Week Scheme. We have consulted widely across the firm on its terms to make sure we have a scheme which is right for us as a business and for our people.’
Eversheds says it remains in a strong financial position, with ‘solid’ levels of activity across many practices and jurisdictions. But the firm has had to take steps to ensure its long-term strength, including significant reductions in discretionary spend and the deferral of the review of remuneration and bonus payments until the end of October 2020.
Equity partner remuneration has been reduced by an average of 25%, driven by the partners saying they wanted to be the first to feel the impact of any financial measures needed to protect the business.
But the flexible working scheme announcement appears to be an acknowledgement that steps already taken have not been enough.
Other firms have taken similar measures, including national firm Knights, which reduced by 10% the salaries of all staff earning more than £30,000, and City firm Norton Rose Fulbright, where staff have been asked to reduce their working week by 20% and be paid 80% of their base salary.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.