Heartbreaking, but needs must.
Management at Stephenson Harwood have decided to let staff work from home full-time - for a price. Those who opt to go fully remote will have their pay cut by 20%, RollOnFriday has learned.
The option is included in the firm's new hybrid and remote working policy, which comes into force at the start of May. It grapples with the thorny issue of pandemic work practices, which have seen many lawyers' eyes open to the time-saving pleasures of commuting to their study, but has created a rift with bosses who now want their people back in the office. They have said that networking, brainstorming, supervision, training and their firms' cultures are all improved when their staff share the same physical space, and are not hundreds of miles away from each other getting bleary-eyed on Zoom.
Stephenson Harwood has specified that from May its fulltime workers will have to be in the office 60% of the time, equivalent to three days a week, but it has also provided an option for staff who don't want to come into the office at all anymore.
If they are "primarily not based in the office...but still based in the home country", there "is an expectation that remote workers will come to the office 1 day a month minimum". However, the travel cost will be covered by the firm and, if it turns into a late night, the hotel cost will also be covered by the firm.
"The cracker", said a source at the firm, is the term which states that "salaries for remote roles will be discounted by 20%" compared to their office-attending counterparts.
The policy specifies that remote roles "may be a modified version or be slightly different in terms of the responsibilities of a hybrid role", but the insider said they didn't expect this to translate to less work. "I doubt the associate role will be modified in any meaningful way (reduced hours, lower targets etc)", said the lawyer.
"Like so many firms, we see value in being in the office together regularly, while also being able to offer our people flexibility", a spokesman for Stephenson Harwood told RollOnFriday. "For the vast majority of our people – and the candidates we speak to – our hybrid working policy works well", by providing them with the option to work remotely for up to two days a week.
Despite its preference for office-based antics, the firm was trying to accommodate staff who wanted to stay away even more, he explained. "For resourcing reasons during the pandemic, we recruited lawyers who weren't based in London, but lived elsewhere in the UK. The packages we offered were different from what we offer our people in London. They're fully remote and are not expected to regularly attend the office”, he said. And presumably paid somewhat less. Now the firm has "opened the option to existing members of staff, so anyone interested in taking advantage of the additional flexibility offered by the package can have a conversation about whether it can work for their role".