Tough break for KPMG staff

Generally speaking, it's never a good sign when your boss asks you to spend less time at work...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

For the staff of KPMG, however, it might be the lesser of two evils. The global accountancy giant has given its 11,000 UK employees the option to take a short period of leave or switch to a four-day week, in an effort to cut headcount costs - the hope being that it'll get enough volunteers to avoid having to make redundancies. It will be a tempting option for many - but it will take a brave bean counter to risk an extended period out of the office at the moment...

KPMG apparently emailed all of its staff last week offering them the chance to take a four to twelve week sabbatical on 30% pay, or switch to a four day week (with the fifth day unpaid). The scheme will be entirely voluntary, and the firm stressed that they might not even be able to grant every request if they get lots of interest. Equally, if there's not enough interest in this so-called 'contingency plan', KPMG might be forced to follow the lead of other City firms and go down the redundancy route.

Of course, you can see the logic from KPMG's point of view. The big mistake firms often make in a downturn is cutting headcount too drastically, only to be left short of numbers when things pick up again. This plan allows them to reduce their costs temporarily, while work is slow, without losing valued staff permanently. And for employees, the prospect of being paid to take an extended holiday (30% salary will still be a decent sum in many cases) will probably sound pretty attractive - particularly since we're right in the middle of a cold, dark, wintry January.

However, it's a risky strategy. KMPG has already said that this plan might not be enough to stave off redundancies - other professional services firms have already started shedding jobs at a rate of knots as the recession bites and the lucrative advisory work dries up. Absenting yourself from the office for a long period (or even one day a week) might keep you out of the firing line - but it also might make your employer realise how easily they can manage without you. KPMG staff will no doubt be worried that they might not have a job to come back to when they get back from their holidays...

In today's bulletin:

Banks bailed out again as RBS faces £28bn loss
Rightmove hints at housing market recovery
Big beast Clarke back in Business
Tough break for KPMG staff
UK plc forced into service

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