"Buddy, how can I put it - the office is a risk worth taking"
Charles Russell Speechlys has been accused of threatening business services staff with pay cuts to drive them back to the office in order to support fee-earners who don’t want to work from home.
"Charles Russell Speechlys are pressuring people to go back into the office", said a source. HR told them fear of Covid "is not a good enough reason" to stay away and that if they did, they would have to use their annual leave to take days off, or WFH on 75% pay, said a source.
"They clearly don't care about staff safety or general well being", said a furious employee.
Others also claimed that HR had “threatened a reduction in salary if we do not come in”. One employee said their manager had proposed a one week in/three weeks out rota, and that pay would "be withheld” from staff who refused their office shift.
"What kind of pressure is this?! Are they even allowed to do this?", an insider asked.
The firm told some staff their roles could not be carried out from home, said a source who was earmarked for the office, “which is a TOTAL lie given that we have been doing this since March”.
“I have been able to operate efficiently from home for most of this year", said a secretary, who told RollOnFriday she was being required to travel to work, while solicitors weren't, because the firm had "stupidly opened up the offices again" and some of the lawyers were going in. "I don’t understand why they would risk my health and safety over and above theirs. Why is it different rules for them and us?”
"We have today received an email at CRS pressurising us to go into work", said a sixth source in business services on 4 December. "Other law firms are rightly still not opening fully. Yet the lawyers at CRS want to go in. This is disgusting behaviour".
The issue of office openings is a sensitive one, with some staff eager to return to an office environment, as others remain fearful of the infection risk of the office and their commute. In a poll of over 2,500 lawyers and business services staff conducted by RollOnFriday in June, 38% of respondents said their preference was to WFH permanently in the short-term once the pandemic was over.
A spokesperson for CRS said that, in order to continue operating for its clients and open its "COVID-secure" offices "for certain business or wellbeing needs", it had "identified some essential roles that are required to be in the office".
"We have consulted with individuals to assess their circumstances, minimise frequency in the office where it is preferred and put in place rotas and revised working practices to accommodate this. Nobody with medical or shielding needs is being asked to come into the office", she said.
"Throughout the pandemic we have listened closely to staff feedback and have generally had very high levels of satisfaction with the firm’s response. Like many firms we have had to adapt and make changes to working practices which we will continue to review as the situation evolves".
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