Accountancy firm KPMG has imposed a period of enforced leave - a furlough -on its IT contractors.
Commencing on December 16th and running until January 3rd 2017, the furlough will prevent temporary IT workers from charging for 12 or so days they would have ordinarily worked.
Although the firm suggested the contractors will welcome the ‘extended Christmas break,’ it means each contractor will be about £5,172 worse off, assuming an average day rate of £431.
“Reflecting reduced demand for their services during the quieter holiday period,” said a KPMG spokeswoman, “for some contractors the Christmas break is [going to be] extended.”
Asked whether contractors can refuse the furlough, the spokeswoman declined to comment other than to hint it was ‘business as usual’, as KMPG has had the "policy in place for several years."
Agencies that place IT contractors shrugged it off too. “It’s becoming more and more normal for clients to encourage or mandate extended leave at Xmas,” says Bowers Partnership.
Similarly, tech staffing agency First Point Group (FPG), which has offices in London near KPMG’s Canary Wharf operation, said its clients have “on occasion” reduced the number of billable days for IT contractors at the end of the calendar year.
But fortunately for such freelance techies, the policy is “the exception rather than the norm” said FPG’s London managing director David Taylor. And contrary to popular belief, cost is not the client’s sole consideration.
“A client [sometimes] ‘freezes’ [computer] networks over the festive period and will not allow work to go on during this period,” he said.
The work itself -- or the lack of it -- can be another motivating factor as to why furloughs are imposed on the temporary IT workforce at a traditionally quiet time for businesses.
“[The big banks] have been at it for years,” says Natalie Bowers of Bowers Partnership. “In fairness, not much work gets done around that period and so in many respects you can’t blame them.”
One IT consultant at KPMG who like staff working off-site on business critical projects is exempt from the firm’s holiday closure, is not convinced.
In fact, the consultant seems to equate the furlough for workers who bill by the day (full-time staff will not lose any of their salary) to a ‘take it or leave’ rate cut, given that he reported the mandatory leave to contract lawyer Egos Ltd, who keeps tracks of such pay ultimatums.
“In the end” though, speculated First Point's Mr Taylor, referring to KPMG's furlough, “I believe it is probably due to the [network] ‘freeze;’ plus it has the bonus to them of providing a cost-saving initiative -- unfortunately not to the contractors.”