KPMG UK has offered its workforce sabbaticals and shortened
working weeks in an effort to mitigate the effects of the economic
downturn.

More than 11,000 employees, including partners, have been
invited to sign up to a scheme the firm hopes will help it better
manage staffing resources and costs, and prevent any wholesale
redundancies. KPMG said a lot of partners had already signed
up.

“Sometimes in a downturn companies do make redundancies and
regret it afterwards because when an upturn comes they then have to
go out there and recruit people back again,” a KPMG spokesperson
told International Accounting Bulletin.

“This scheme, we hope, will enable us to keep hold of our best
people and keep us well positioned for an upturn when it arrives.
It gives KPMG the flexibility through the year to manage the
workforce accordingly. They wouldn’t necessarily all be asked to
work shorter hours or take leave. We’re just establishing that pool
of people first.”

The scheme allows employees to work four-day weeks or apply for
up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave at about 30 percent of
wages. KPMG will determine in February how many volunteers take
part in the scheme. The scheme will continue until September 2010
although it will be periodically reviewed and affected staff could
return to normal working hours sooner if business picks up.

The service areas of KPMG that have experienced the greatest
drop in demand include the corporate finance and transaction
advisory businesses. However, the firm said it has seen increased
demand in restructuring practice and audit. KPMG said it will
continue recruiting “key strategic hires” where there is a clear
business case but overall recruitment will slow down.

The firm plans to take on 600 graduates in September, which is
down from last year’s intake of 750.

“We need new blood coming into the firm and to keep that
pipeline open… we’ve had very high demand and our graduate places
are filling up very fast,” the spokesperson explained.

Although KPMG UK is part of the KPMG Europe firm, the scheme is
only being offered to UK employees.

Arvind Hickman