Reduced hours for all employees could save £5m a year in wages and profit payouts

<a class=Norton Rose to offer four day week to partners” />Norton Rose is encouraging partners to take up part-time working under a radical scheme to offer reduced hours to all staff.

Under the plan, which is yet to be approved and which was announced last week ( 12 March), staff will have the option of working four-day weeks on 85 per cent of pay, or taking a ­sabbatical of up to 12 weeks on 30 per cent of pay.

Norton?Rose?chief ­executive Peter Martyr said the firm had not yet finalised how it would adjust partner drawings, but it is understood that partners will see similar falls in remuneration to salaried staff.

He added: “It’s right for partners to take the lead and say, ‘we’re standing in this together’.”

The ‘contingency plan’ will be adopted if 75 per cent of staff sign up for reduced hours, allowing the firm to put entire departments on a four-day week if the ­economic slump continues.

Head of corporate Tim Marsden said: “We think the market’s continuing to deteriorate and rather than ­having all this uncertainty, we’d like to have a package of measures which may possibly save people their jobs.”

Martyr would not be drawn on possible savings, but if a quarter of all London employees converted to part-time, the firm would save up to £5m a year in wages and profit payments.

Other firms such as Mills & Reeve have seen some staff and associate hours cut, but this is believed to be the first ­partner-led scheme.

Simmons & Simmons is also piloting reduced ­working arrangements, The Lawyer can reveal. Ten ­projects associates have ­volunteered to cut hours by 10 per cent in order to save one position.

A firm spokesman said the proposal had been agreed in principle but that the redundancy consultation was ongoing.

Simmons managing partner Mark Dawkins expressed concern about adopting part-time work across the firm. He said: “It’s a good short-term move. I would be sceptical that it’s the right long-term move for a major firm. Law firms are going to want to have a more streamlined gearing in future.”

Norton Rose has been one of the few firms to have so far avoided making redundancies. Martyr said: “The problem with redundancy is that it’s quite a crude thing. It causes a lot of damage, then you have to go and hire the people again.”

He added that the firm employed a lot of specialists in sectors such as transport and energy who it would be unwilling to lose.

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