Prior to Monday's announcement in the UK of the coronavirus lockdown, sources accused some firms of putting profit before the safety of their staff. But more firms were praised for their rapid, sensible responses.
Gill Turner Tucker in Maidstone was, said a source on Friday, enforcing office working and had hinted at pay cuts for those who demurred. The firm "suggested docking pay for workers not going to the office", said an insider. It did not respond to a request for comment.
In Mayfair, the CEO of a wealth management company sent an email to all staff on Friday afternoon ordering them to continue coming to the office every day and prohibiting working from home, said a source. "I have serious underlying health conditions", said the insider, but "a specific request to work from home based on that was dismissed with the comment, 'You should be pleased to have a job'". RollOnFriday is not naming the business to protect the identity of the source.
In Australia, HWL Ebsworth was accused of requiring all staff to come to the office rather than work from home during the coronavirus outbreak. "I suspect that one of the reasons the firm is reluctant to let people work from home is the lack of proper IT infrastructure", said a source. Also in Australia, the General Counsel of construction company CPB Contractors was accused of outrageous hypocrisy. By Friday the GC had been working at home for over a week, said a source. But he was refusing to let his lawyers work remotely. Neither HWL or CPB responded to requests for comment.
The vast majority of firms appear to have reacted creditably. Several readers contacted RollOnFriday after last week's story to praise their firms for insisting well before the lockdown was announced that staff should work from home.
"As a recent joiner at BCLP I’ve been hugely impressed and reassured by the way in which management and Partners (and staff across all teams and departments) have been handling the Covid-19 crisis", said an employee. "Staff are being looked after and clients are being looked after and the remote-working arrangements are largely effective. I’m very pleased to be at BCLP", they said.
CMS "moved their entire UK function to home working immediately on Boris’ announcement on Monday", said a staffer commenting on its measures after the lockdown, "though lots working at home for weeks with firm blessing". The office "remains open if people want to collect stuff but people are being told that no bit of paper is worth their health or other people’s...everyone’s got a Surface (inc. secretaries and support staff), bulk buying monitor capacity to receive at home for those that still need them, and amazing IT support". The insiders lauded CMS for having "Good, prepared, management who put people and long term good before short-term, short-sighted profit".
A Shearman & Sterling employee said they were "very impressed" by the US firm's "speedy response and good communication".
"I work for Ince Gordon Dadds and I have to say the Firm's approach to Corona has been extremely good", said one of its staff. "IT servers have been tested" in advance "so that everyone is able to WFH correctly. "This sounds like it is coming from HR or marketing (I promise it is not) but the response by the Firm really has been fantastic".
Several readers noted that their firms were ensuring staff received the necessary gear (computer, yoga mat, wine) to work from home effectively.
Macfarlanes is reimbursing staff up to £200 for monitors and printers, said a source, although, "I'm waiting for someone to ask about printer paper and ink if this goes on long term".
Clifford Chance was also giving £200 towards WFH kit, said another reader. "Just not printers, paper or ink - confidentiality risk".
A Wedlake Bell worker said its staff had all filled in a survey to have monitors, keyboards, printers and scanners sent to them free of charge. "As a small/medium sized firm we can do this, but I'm still impressed to be getting all this kit", they said.
If you've got a tip about a firm's response, write in or comment below. We may all be stuck at home, but the gossip can run free.