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Furloughs and freezes: Latest on firms' Covid-19 responses

Written By - Ali Hameed - August 06,2020

Furloughs and freezes: Latest on firms' Covid-19 responses

Staff at top firms have begun to return to the office, but the future for hundreds of furloughed solicitors and business services staff remains unclear. The Gazette contacted the UK’s top 60 firms to find out whether they are still dependent on the government's job retention scheme and what will happen once the programme comes to an end on 31 October. 

Listed firm Gateley said the number of its staff on furlough is falling as demand increases, and some team members have been redeployed to ‘exceptionally busy’ areas of the business. The firm said it is working to bring any remaining people back from furlough as quickly as business need allows.

At its maximum, Freeths furloughed 206 staff and topped up their salaries to 100%. In July, nine were brought back fully and 23 returned on part-time furlough. The firm says it will continue to furlough some staff in August and possibly into September and October, however. At present, 30 staff are on full-time furlough and 32 staff are on part-time furlough.

Burges Salmon said it has used the furlough scheme predominantly for business service roles where it has not been possible during lockdown to provide work or where work levels have reduced. Salaries were topped up to 100%. The firm said it is continuing to use the retention scheme but the number of furloughed staff is falling as people return to work to meet increased resourcing requirements. A small number of business services people will remain on furlough in August and the position will be kept under review for September and October.

Around 320 employees in total were furloughed at Blake Morgan. However, a spokesperson said this was kept under review depending on workloads, team experience and client requirements. Salaries were topped up to 100% between March and April. After 1 May, employees were asked to take a ‘modest and temporary’ pay cut, with partners taking the greatest reduction. Around 210 employees returned from furlough in July, but the firm expects to keep some employees furloughed in August and early autumn.

Lewis Silkin said its priority ‘throughout this challenging time has been to safeguard our people and our business’. The partnership agreed to temporarily suspend planned quarterly profit distributions and a reduction in hours by some staff. The firm said it took steps to furlough colleagues who were unable to work remotely, totalling approximately 10% of its people.

Redundancies have so far been announced by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, DWF and Freeths.