Leading law firms will be fully open to welcome back staff this week – but don’t expect many offices to be full.

A survey of the top 30 firms found the vast majority are either leaving staff to decide whether they work from home or allowing them to work flexibly at least two days a week.

This will be the first full week this year when people in England have not been advised to work from home if they are able to. In Wales, employers are being encouraged to let people work from home where possible but the guidance states that employees should not be required or placed under pressure to return.

The lifting of restrictions in England should mean thousands of law firm staff return to their offices this week, although the vast majority of firms have allowed them to come in during recent weeks if that has been necessary.

But firms appear to be in no rush to fill desks in the short term at least, with many if not all of the biggest firms in the UK continuing to allow a degree of freedom about where staff work.

Among those practices that responded to the Gazette, Hogan Lovells said people can return to the office from today if they wish to but the intention is to have a phased transition back to hybrid arrangements launched in September.

Linklaters will implement an agile working policy which enables staff to work 20-50% of their time remotely. Freshfields will ask staff to work at least 50% of the time in the office, but has said Covid-19 safety provisions will remain in place in the building.

DWF has not set minimum requirements but is encouraging everyone to come into the office on a ‘regular basis’, and is in particular ‘emphasising the benefits of working together with colleagues and clients’.

Fieldfisher says it expects to return to working three days per week in the office from the end of this month, while Kennedys also expects that staff who sign up for a hybrid working policy will spend up to two days a week remotely. Addleshaw Goddard is looking at different aspects of hybrid working but is encouraging people to come in on average at least two days a week, while Stephenson Harwood expects that staff on average will be in the office at least half the time.

Other firms are less inclined to set any requirements on how often staff must be in, saying they will be able to adapt their working environment depending on clients and colleagues. Withers says there are no limits or requirements on days in the office, while DAC Beachcroft continues its ‘flex forward’ approach from last year, enabling people to ‘find their own optimum way of working’ in line with the three principles of meeting client demands, collaborating as a team and delivering the outputs of each individual’s role. Irwin Mitchell will continue to allow colleagues to choose whether to come in or work from home.

Those who do come into work would be advised to check the Covid guidance if they are taking public transport. Masks are not mandatory in public places although the guidelines suggest they should still be worn in enclosed and crowded spaces. But face coverings will still be a condition of travel for now on Transport for London services including the underground and buses.

Source: By John Hyde lawgazett.co.uk