Major firm stands down staff, cuts remaining hours by up to 20%

By Naomi Neilson|07 April 2020

A major law firm has temporarily stood down 3 per cent of its staff and asked the remaining workforce to reduce their hours, some by up to 20 per cent.

Norton Rose Fulbright announced on Tuesday morning that they had temporarily stood down 2 to 3 per cent of their workforce who were unable to perform their roles under a work from home arrangement. The remaining staff will have reduced hours to ensure the firm sees out the rest of the coronavirus pandemic economic concerns.

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Recruitment and salary reviews have also been paused, partner draws are temporarily suspended and several other measures will be introduced to combat the economic downfall, including postponing non-core project expenditure.

The Flex system introduced by the BigLaw firm will be based on the level of work. Some staff hours may be cut by a total 20 per cent, whereas others may not have a reduction at all. The underlying philosophy of the decision was to ask its staff to “face this situation together and, by acting as one, come through this stronger”.

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Australian managing partner Wayne Spanner and managing partner-elect Alison Deitz said: “We believe the comprehensive steps we are taking are an appropriate and prudent response, but of course none of us can predict exactly how long and how severe the COVID-19 crisis will be.

“Coupled with our strong foundation and continued dedication to assist clients in areas of great demand, we are confident our business will emerge from this crisis in a strong position and ready to embrace an improving economy.”

Mr Spanner and Ms Deitz said the firm is busy dealing with both current work and significant new work generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. They said the firm’s 1,000 staff members have transitioned quickly and seamlessly to working from home.

However, they also expect that some areas of the firm will continue to reduce in the coming months as business conditions in many industries deteriorate.

“We are taking proactive and decisive steps to address the likely business impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to support our clients and preserve jobs. Just as important will be ensuring that we have the right teams in place to support our clients through the crisis and the eventual recovery,” they said.

Major firm stands down staff, cuts remaining hours by up to 20%
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