Norton Rose Fulbright asks lawyers to work four-day week in response to virus crisis

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By Thomas Connelly on

Global giant adopted similar measures during 2008-9 financial crisis

Norton Rose Fulbright’s London office

Norton Rose Fulbright has asked its lawyers to drop down to a four-day working week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a move reminiscent of its response to the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

The global giant confirmed “eligible personal” may be asked to work reduced hours and take a 20% pay cut in “pre-emptive action” to protect jobs and revenues throughout the virus crisis. Those on lower salaries may also see a reduction in their working week by 20% but on pay reductions of between 5% and 20%.

Over 75% of staff need to volunteer for the programme for it to be “economically viable”, NRF said, and it will remain in place for a year. It will apply in offices in Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA), and employee benefits will remain unaffected.

The criteria used to determine which volunteers will be selected to work reduced hours will be based on the needs of the business and will be assessed on a departmental and team basis.

“In this current crisis, we believe it is prudent to take pre-emptive action to protect our people and our business”, managing partner Peter Scott said. “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.”

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He continued:

“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.”

In addition to reduced hours, the firm will defer the distribution of partner profits and bonuses, and delay salary rises and bonus payments for staff.

NRF — which adopted a similar reduced hours programme back in 2009 in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis — isn’t the first firm to tighten its belt in response to COVID-19.

Allen & Overy confirmed earlier this week it was introducing a raft of “prudent management measures”, including upping partner capital levels, deferring certain investments and recruitment, and cancelling events. It also confirmed it had scrapped upcoming annual salary reviews.

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