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Baker McKenzie offers lawyers part-paid summer sabbaticals in response to pandemic

Also implements reduced working week option

Baker McKenzie has introduced a series of new measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the option for lawyers and staff to take part-paid summer sabbaticals.

The global giant said the extended holidays were part of a range of voluntary working options to ensure the strength of its business while providing employees with “as much job security as possible”. The firm did however stress that partners will “bear the brunt of any impact”.

It is understood that the sabbaticals will last between six weeks and three months.

Bakers — which briefly shuttered its London HQ in February following a suspected case of COVID-19 (it turned out to be a false alarm) — has also implemented a new optional reduced hours programme, which will see some lawyers and support staff work a four-day week for 85% pay.

It is also deferring salary reviews for all staff for at least six months, pushing back decisions on bonuses until later in the year, and pausing recruitment activities with the exceptions of graduate recruitment and strategic lateral hires.

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Alex Chadwick, London managing partner, said: “We have navigated the COVID-19 economic environment well so far. This is because of the full service global nature of our firm, our local strength and the continued delivery of the highest standards of client service.”

He added:

“As the economic landscape begins to shift, we need to ensure that we are well positioned so we can continue to protect the strength of our business while preserving jobs. This means adopting a prudent and measured approach temporarily until the economic picture becomes clearer.”

Bakers isn’t the first big legal player to offer its staff extended breaks. In April, Legal Cheek reported that Shearman & Sterling was offering its lawyers and staff sabbaticals of up to six months at a third of their annual salary, while Reed Smith has introduced a scheme which allows employees the option to take up to three months unpaid leave.

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