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Atkins tells staff to work longer week

Britain’s biggest consultant Atkins wants some of its staff to work longer hours for the same money, it emerged this week.

The firm has started consulting staff in its highways and transportation division about increasing their standard working week from 37.5 hours to 40 hours.

“We have started a consultation in our highways and transportation business over a small increase in working hours, which will allow us to deliver greater efficiencies for our clients as they experience pressure on their budgets,” said a spokesman.

“Atkins has become adept at responding to clients in the public and private sectors while they navigate the economic downturn. We have continued to meet their needs by focusing on providing the best technical solutions and by continuing to flex our resources.”

The move to create a longer working week is the latest measure to be adopted by the firm in a bid to remain profitable despite tough trading conditions in the UK. The firm has already made more than 1,000 redundancies since September 2009.

Last November the firm said it had cut jobs in a bid to maintain profits (NCE 25 November 2010). It made a pretax profit of £41.7M in the six months to the end of September, but this came at the expense of 906 jobs across its divisions between October 2009 and September 2010.

Staff numbers fell from 16,235 on 30 September 2009 to 15,329 on 30 September 2010. In October the firm made a further 100 redundancies at its new US acquisition PBSJ.

Readers' comments (16)

  • Barry Walton

    How long will it be before clients latch on to the reality that overheads will be spread over 40 hours instead of 37.5 and demand a discount comparable to the increaded hours worked for time charged activities? Is it sound to increase the working week when there is a shortage of work? Mind, how many staff already deliver 40 hours plus for their nominal 37.5 hours timesheet input?

    B Walton

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  • Michael Paul

    The "small increase" in working hours equates to around 6% which is quite a sizeable pay cut for those involved. Even assuming losses in efficiency (or motivation?) that means Atkins achieving a 5% reduction in costs - so if the workload remains constant, then further redundancies will be the logical conclusion. Taking into account that staff in consultancies work on average half an hour unpaid overtime per day, then we are talking about a average working week of well over 40 hours.

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  • Atkins has gone down in my estimation to the point where I am reconsidering my career.

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  • Civil Engineering profession has been undervalued for a very long time. If this continues civil engineering industry will loose the best talent and younger generation will hesitate to take up Civil Engineering as a profession.

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  • The consultant I work for (AECOM) has already done this but most of the staff were already working longer hours for no extra pay anyway. I have always thought that any reduction in costs, however achieved, which results in increased profits for the company should be shared between staff and shareholders through a fair and equitable bonus system. After all, any company selling services is worth nothing without the quality and hard work of its employees. It's the staff who make the value.

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  • Luke O'Rafferty

    Does anyone in construction actually work less than 40 hours a week?

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  • When there aren't enough jobs to go round it seems like an unhelpful approach that will lead to further redundancy- given available work. Perhaps reducing staff hours (but retaining the same rate of pay) would retain staff that would otherwise be lost, ready for a time in the future when they are needed. Otherwise I suspect a lot of people lost to the industry now may never return, making a quick and helpful response to clients as work picks up particularly difficult.

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  • Luke: most staff in consulting companies work a nominal 37.5 hour week (or at least that's my experience), although managerial levels and above tend to work more than their contracted hours.

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  • @ Luke - yes, more than it seems you are aware of.

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  • As a retired ICE member with over 30 years in construction mostly overseas where frequently we went to work at 4.00am returning home at 10.00pm to me some of these whingeing comments are naive and childish. I only stopped working as a technical translator at home, using French & Spanish I learned overseas, 4 years ago at the age of 75 to become a 24/7 carer for my late wife who had developed Alzheimer's. Those complaining about an extra half hour's work daily are lucky to have a job in these tough times. I went overseas for obvious financial reasons (but there was no overtime pay) and if I could have my time again I would do exactly the same.
    Fred Rawson FICE

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