Deloitte forces all employees to take one week of leave

03 April 2020 4 min. read
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As the global consulting industry comes under severe pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, many firms have taken preventative measures in the world’s fourth largest advisory market. According to reports from the Australian press, Deloitte has taken some of the most drastic measures, recently forcing all employees to take a week of leave.

Also known as Covid-19, the Coronavirus outbreak of 2019-20 is an infectious disease, which causes those affected to develop a fever, dry cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. A sore throat, runny nose or sneezing is less common, while cases can progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure in the most vulnerable. As the number of global cases reaches 1 million, most nations with patients have deployed some level of lock-down.

With the consulting industry famously relying on travel to reach clients all over the world, professionals in the sector are especially vulnerable to Covid-19, meaning many firms have had to take evasive action to minimise their infection rates. In the UK in March, this saw Deloitte close its London office for deep cleaning following its first case of coronavirus, before encouraging its staff to work from home where possible.

Deloitte forces all employees to take one week of leave

In Australia, the Big Four member has taken much more stringent action at the start of April. Deloitte, which employs 11,000 staff, the largest number of the Big Four in Australia, and according to reports from the Australian Financial Review, it has just forced its entire headcount to take a week of annual leave in the week of April 20th.

An email sent to all staff by Chief Strategy Officer Clare Harding read, “All our employees and partners need to take one week of leave during this period… You may choose to take the leave during the preceding two weeks if you have special circumstances, including if you have school-age kids with school holidays that don’t fall within the period from April 20 to April 24. Whichever option you choose, please make sure it doesn’t adversely impact client engagements or deliverables.”

Aside from the direct medical threat of Covid-19, the outbreak has also had a major impact on the consulting industry’s revenues. As a result, Deloitte’s move comes alongside a host of cost-cutting measures designed to improve the firm’s cash-flow while corporate clients stop or delay projects. The precarious nature of the industry’s position in this crisis was further emphasised by another all-firm email issued by Deloitte Australia, which warned that as they work from home, staff must “do your best to be as productive as possible during this time” to boost chances of keeping their jobs.

While research from Source Global Research previously suggested that the largest ‘generalist’ consultancies were well positioned to come through Covid-19 with minimal disruption, such is the rate the situation has escalated that even the high and mighty of the professional services world’s Big Four are having to consider how to weather the storm. Initially, three of the quartet – KPMG, PwC and EY – had been confident enough to state they had no plans to cut staff after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for businesses to “hold onto your people,” even if there is a downturn due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite this initial confidence, professional services firm KPMG has since moved to cut 200 roles from its 9,000-strong workforce. EY has meanwhile cut the amount of money partners can draw from the business, frozen recruitment and slashed discretionary spending as part of a range of measures designed to avoid job cuts.

Australia is currently the world’s fourth largest national consulting market, accounting for around 3.8% of the world’s consulting revenues – suggesting that other consulting markets lower down the food chain may soon take even more drastic measures. However, such is the diversity of the consulting industry, that some areas of business are still thriving. Project management may not be in demand, but accountants, business advisers and lawyers been busy helping clients with layoffs, shutdowns and emergency capital raising – showing there is potential for consultants to survive even in the toughest of times.