Flexible Accounting: KPMG UK Offers Staff a Four-day Week

KPMG's UK offices propose the possibility of a four-day work week as a cost-saving measure designed to avoid layoffs.

KPMG UK has invited all 11,000 of its employees, including partners and auditors, to apply to work a four-day week. The firm also told employees they could request partially paid leave for periods ranging from 4 to 12 weeks.

A spokesman for the accounting firm said the offer was made to increase the firm’s flexibility and help avoid layoffs if market conditions deteriorate. KPMG UK had about 200 layoffs last summer in its corporate finance, sales and marketing, and other divisions.

The firm has not decided whether it will actually will allow employees to take the shorter work weeks, nor whether any might be required to do so. “We don’t know at this stage whether we will need to offer this,” spokesman Gavin Houlgate told CFO.com. “At the moment the firm is doing quite nicely. This is just a contingency measure.”

Houlgate said all 11,000 staff in the U.K. had been invited to apply. “It is completely across the firm, all our people.” He added, “We think this is an innovative way of trying to avoid redundancies and hanging on to our best people. We don’t want to have redundancies.”

The move is not unusual for an accounting firm — although accounting jobs are often characterized by long hours, all of the seven largest firms are known for aggressively seeking to retain accounting professionals through flexible work programs. In the United States, KPMG says that more than 70 percent of its professionals have used some type of flexible work arrangement. Employees can pull back to a 60 percent workload, or three days a week. They can even choose to work full time three months a year, usually during the busy January-April period, and 40 percent the rest of the time.

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