Norton Rose triggers reduced hours scheme

NORTON Rose has put its flexible working plan into immediate action, cutting hours for entire teams in corporate, shipping, banking and dispute resolution.

When the proposal was launched in March the firm stressed that the initiative was a “contingency plan” to be implemented only if the economy did not improve.

Chief executive Peter Martyr said he understood staff being concerned about the speed of implementation, but added: “It would be imprudent to wait too long in what’s continued to be a pretty flat market.”

The scheme, which allows the firm to put staff on four-day weeks and paid sabbaticals throughout the 2009-10 financial year, was launched last Friday (1 May).

The Lawyer understands that formal notices have already been sent to small teams of assistants and support staff.

Despite Martyr’s pledge that partners would be encouraged to take part in the scheme, they are not currently being considered for reduced working.

“As far as partners are concerned, we want them to be out there finding ­business,” said Martyr. “It’s a flexible scheme. We can operate it in a way which suits the business environment best.”

Last month some 96 per cent of staff voted in favour of adopting the plan to avoid the need for redundancies. The firm can now ask staff to work four days a week on 85 per cent of base salary or take sabbaticals of four to 12 weeks at 30 per cent of base salary. Any reduction in salary is being capped at 20 per cent.

Martyr said: “It’s for the greater good of the vast majority of people that we operate this in a way that makes it work.”