Employees of a city law firm have been told they can permanently work from home, but only if they take a 20 percent pay cut.
Stephenson Harwood employs more than 1,100 people worldwide with offices in London, Paris, Greece, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.
The firm confirmed the independent which would offer these employees the option to work from home full-time for a reduced salary.
Industry reports put the starting salary for a newly qualified solicitor working for Stephenson Harwood at £90,000, meaning he would lose around £18,000.
A spokesman for the firm said that young employees were not targeted by the policy and that very few employees at any level were expected to accept the offer. He said the company’s hybrid work schedule, up to two days a week remotely, was suitable for most.
“For the vast majority of our people, and the candidates we spoke to, our hybrid work policy works well. Like many companies, we see value in being in the office together regularly, while also being able to offer flexibility to our people,” she added.
The reduced payment plan was aimed at those who have moved from expensive cities like London to wherever they please, the firm said.
“For resource reasons during the pandemic, we hired lawyers who were not based in London, but lived elsewhere in the UK.
“The packages we offered were different from what we offer our people in London. They are completely remote and are not expected to be in the office on a regular basis. If they are needed in the office, we cover their travel and accommodation costs.”
Workers in London are often paid what is known as a location premium, meaning they get more for a job than anywhere else in the UK. Stephenson Harwood argues that workers moving from London could therefore work at a lower rate.
It’s unclear if the firm is alone in this. Last January, Income Data Research asked 29 companies that pay location premiums if they planned to change the premium in light of the pandemic.
None of the companies said they did at the time, but the situation with home work was difficult to predict then and remains so now.
Other law firms have tried to lure workers back into the office with treats. The times reported last week that another London firm, Hogan Lovells, had paid for a litter of puppies to be brought to its offices for two days.
Continued home working has been criticized by the prime minister, who last week questioned whether employees were as productive while working from home.
However, home working is popular with employees, according to research from the Indeed site. And the national workforce has shown that it can be more effective with large numbers of people working from home, as productivity was higher in the last quarter of 2021 than the pre-pandemic average.