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EV subscriptions, home loan support: BigLaw employee incentives expand

Amid a cost-of-living crisis and a probability that pay bumps will not be as generous in the looming cycle, some of Australia’s biggest law firms are offering new incentives for employees to better support holistic needs.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 09 June 2023 Big Law
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In a recent podcast episode, Naiman Clarke managing director Elvira Naiman posited that law firms across Australia, particularly those at the big end of town, will be looking more seriously at incentives for employees as a retention strategy, in lieu of salary increases that are comparable to last year’s pay rises.

Some lawyers, Ms Naiman suggested, will be disappointed in the upcoming salary review period, paving the way for end-of-year bonuses and employee incentives in its place.

The proliferation of such employee incentives appears more likely in the current climate, given that — as the latest Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA)-produced Australian Legal Industry HR Issues and Salary Survey shows, while many law firms across Australia remain prepared to negotiate salary increases that are above the CPI — the number of firms has dropped from over one in three (36 per cent) in 2022 to just under three in 10 (28 per cent) this year.


ALPMA wrote in its report that “while wages need to keep pace with rising living costs and encourage staff to stay with their current employer, offering above consumer price index (CPI) increases to provide a boost to real take-home salaries becomes increasingly difficult”.

Some of the biggest firms operating in Australia are not waiting for potential disappointment to manifest and are already taking steps to support the holistic needs of staff amidst the cost-of-living crisis and potential (if not likely) recession to come.

Electric vehicle subscriptions

Global law firm K&L Gates, for example, has recently signed up to Origin Energy’s electric vehicle subscription service, Origin 360 EV Subscription Salary Packaging. The firm is, it said, the first in Australia to do so.

Under the program, K&L Gates employees and their families can experience an electric vehicle via a monthly subscription, allowing staff members to drive their preferred EV, or a selection of EVs, so as to reduce their carbon footprint without an upfront purchase.

“The goal is to help reduce the environmental impact of transport, which is currently the third-highest source of emissions in Australia,” K&L Gates noted.

The firm recently launched the program, with the monthly subscription being deducted as a pre-tax salary sacrifice, including servicing, registration, insurance, and roadside assistance.

In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, K&L Gates Australian director of human resources Nick Grant said that the firm is “always eager” to provide innovative offerings to its staff.

“In this current economic climate, it’s particularly pleasing to ensure our people have access to environmentally sustainable options while still being financially savvy,” he noted.

Home loan support

Elsewhere, fellow global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills is partnering with lawyer-specific mortgage broking firm Legal Home Loans (LHL) to provide its staff with access to better home loan options, a special cashback at loan settlement, and ongoing finance check-ins.

LHL has, an HSF spokesperson noted, “an in-depth understanding of the legal industry, remuneration structures, and how to best serve legal professionals”.

“They’re assisting our people with purchasing property, refinancing existing mortgages to better structure their debt, and by providing educational sessions to help our people plan and achieve their financial goals,” the spokesperson said.

The new partnership comes at a time when lawyers are already paying an average of $1,100 more per month in repayments for their home loans, a figure which will no doubt rise following the Reserve Bank’s latest rate rise, earlier this week (6 June).

As reported by Lawyers Weekly, legal professionals are more inclined to get onto the property ladder at an earlier stage of life and also buy more expensive homes than their non-lawyer counterparts across the country.

Speaking about the partnership, LHL general manager Aylin Unsal said that personal finances are one of the most common causes of stress for many people and that receiving support in this area can make such a big impact on overall wellbeing yet is often overlooked by employers when developing a meaningful employee value proposition.

“Having an expert by your side when navigating a significant milestone like obtaining or managing home loans can transform the experience, especially in a time of evolving economic conditions and interest rate fluctuations,” she submitted.

“We commend Herbert Smith Freehills for taking this step and are thrilled to be partnering together. We look forward to assisting and enhancing the financial wellness of their wider team.”

In addition, HSF noted, it is partnering with property investment education and acquisitions service AllianceCorp, so as to offer firm staff budget management advice, financial education and coaching, and property investment strategies, including first home owners guidance, property wealth planning, research, acquisitions, buyers’ advocacy and ongoing post-purchase assistance.

Financial wellness, the HSF spokesperson noted, is an important aspect of mental health, “but too often, it’s overlooked”.

“That’s why in addition to a range of different health and wellbeing offerings, our employee benefits program also gives our people access to organisations that can help them navigate some of the issues around purchasing property — whether that be their first home or an investment,” they said.