Trowers & Hamlins has cut benefits for its Middle East staff, potentially reducing individual employees’ disposable income by thousands of pounds.

According to a document issued to staff this week and seen by The Lawyer, six distinct benefits will be suspended or terminated, some of them with immediate effect. These include payment of employee utility bills, flights home, recreation club allowances, provision of landlines, faxes and internet, petrol and vehicle expenses and a currency protection scheme.

In addition, the announcement stipulates that a salary review due on 1 May will be cancelled. The firm’s travel policy has also been revised, with restrictions on business class travel.

A firm spokesperson said the economic environment was to blame for the cuts.

The spokesperson added: “Given the current economic environment it’s only natural for us to undertake a review of the discretionary benefits offered to partners and other team members in order for us to avoid, insofar as possible, any further staff cuts.

“As with most employees overseas benefits include contributions to accommodation, flights, vehicles etc.  A number of these have been revised and/or cut until further notice.”

Many of the benefits discussed are offered as standard to employees at international firms in the Middle East and are considered as remuneration for contractual purposes. However, Trowers is one of the few international firms to ringfence benefits from basic remuneration packages.

One employee said: “The announcement was made two days before it would happen. It was a sudden surprise and the financial impact is great, especially if you’ve got a family.

“There’s a clause in the employment contract that they reserve the right to take away allowances. When I joined I brought it up and was told they would never take it away.”