"If anyone asks, we're all here to check our eyesight."
The head of a network of UK law firms has been accused of putting his business's bottom line above staff safety during the pandemic by ordering his lawyers to come into the office in tier 4 regions even if they could work effectively from home.
In an extraordinary New Year's email leaked to RollOnFriday, Tony Stockdale also castigated staff for not contributing as much as they should have during 2020.
Stockdale is the chairman of the Metamorph Group, which has acquired eight firms around England and now employs over 630 people.
In an email sent to all staff at Linder Myers on 4 January just before the latest lockdown was announced that evening, Stockdale wished his employees a Happy New Year.
But in contrast to uplifting messages of gratitude sent by other bosses to their staff in the midst of a tough period, Stockdale dressed down his workers for their failures in 2020.
"We must work together to get through this and make sure we are supportive and look after each other. Last year the vast majority of you did just this and we benefitted accordingly", wrote Stockdale.
"Sadly though some people did not contribute as they could and should have done and expected others to do what they would not".
"That is not the kind of attitude I expect to see in our business."
Rather than pay lip service to staff safety, in an email he sent to his management team Stockdale emphasised that profit was of paramount importance. He included the management email in his all-staff message, telling the recipients, "I think it is important you see it for yourselves".
"All our offices are now in either Tier 3 or Tier 4 and it is our job to make sure the potential disruption this may cause is minimised and, as we agreed at our meeting on the 11th December, 'we hit budget'", wrote Stockdale in the quoted management email.
"To do that means all offices being fully open for business with the vast majority of our people working, at least in part, in the office. Please make sure this happens and you all lead by example".
Stockdale quoted Tier 4 government rules that "everyone who can work effectively from home should do so" and acknowledged in his email that "some senior fee earners can, arguably, work well from home". However, he instructed them to travel in to work regardless.
"Such senior people should be leading by example and be in the office rather than expecting others to do what they are not doing themselves ie be in the office", wrote Stockdale.
"If you do not then I am certain your team will not hit budget which is unacceptable".
Stockdale signed off with the reality-defying conclusion, "So as you can see it is very much 'business as usual' right from the start of 2021 which is going to be another very exciting year for Metamorph Group".
Excerpt of Stockwell's email to all Linder Myers staff.
The edict to work in the office also affected less senior staff, said an insider. A junior lawyer who joined the firm in Autumn 2020 was told in her first week she was not permitted to work from home, said a source.
"On the Wednesday of her first week, her manager came into the office coughing. By the Thursday it was confirmed her manager had covid and they were sent home", said a source.
Following the announcement of the lockdown in England, Stockdale sent a second email which reiterated that "we have already been decided [sp] we will continue to be 'fully open for business', albeit the balance between home and office working will be different and, inevitably, we will be making more use of furlough".
He concluded, "I expect we will be able to achieve our budgets (thereby protecting jobs) despite the further challenges provided - we sell, sell, sell".
Stockdale and Linder Myers did not respond to requests for comment.
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