Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 12:28 UK

BT offers holidays for pay cuts

BT sign
BT posted losses of 1.3bn for the first three months of the year

Telecommunications giant BT is offering staff the chance of long holidays in return for a big pay cut.

The former state-owned company is looking to reduce its wage bill while trying to avoid redundancies after being hit by the economic downturn.

One option available to staff is an up front sum of 25% of annual salary in return for taking the whole year off.

Employees have also been offered a one-off payment of £1,000 if they agree to go part-time.

Parents will have the opportunity to restrict their hours to school term times to allow them to spend time with their children.

'Extremely progressive'

A company spokesman said: "BT is known for its progressive human resources policies with flexible working.

"Being one of the largest employers in the UK I think this is an extremely progressive way of managing costs during a recession, rather than making redundancies."

The company said it had "a tradition of innovation for flexible working practices", including home-working, sabbaticals and secondments.

"These are innovative ways to help keep employees during these tough economic times," it added.

BT, which has more than 100,000 employees, posted losses of £1.3bn for the first three months of the year.

The company has said it will cut about 15,000 jobs mostly in the UK this year, after losing a similar number of posts last year.

Earlier this year BT chief executive Ian Livingston said the "unacceptable performance" of BT Global Services, which handles the network systems of large firms, had overshadowed other parts of the business.

Last month, British Airways asked its staff to work for nothing to help it cut costs.

Some 30,000 workers received an email appeal to take up to a month's unpaid leave, or work without salary, after the airline posted a record annual loss of £401m.

These are some of the comments we have received about this story.

Being a BT employee, the first thing I don't like about this is hearing about it in the news, before hearing about it from BT!
Anonymous, Surrey

It would be nice to hear it first from BT rather than national media as I work for BT however I would welcome the change to have school holidays off.
Melanie, Lincoln, Lincolnshire

For those BT employees who haven't heard about this before, then complain to your manager about that. It's been briefed out and known about for something like three weeks in major areas of the business. Also to confirm this is voluntary. In the positive side, it (and other initiatives) are at least being creative.
Steve Jones, Maidenhead

I am not a BT employee, but I strongly believe that this approach is the best way forward for most employers in the developed world. I have yet to hear any politicians (dare) suggest a national reduction to a 4 or 3-day week. Let's face the facts - we do not need to be churning out goods like we were a generation ago. It is a waste of time and resources. Common sense says that high levels of employment and a five-day week cannot last forever, unless we produce goods and services that we do not need. If everyone had one more day off each week, and received a 20 per cent pay cut, I think we would all be a lot happier.
David James, Kyoto, Japan

I think this is utter nonsense. I need the money to deal with the higher cost of living. This is nothing to do with flexible workforce but trying to leverage the company for the shareholders. I have young kids- and while spending time with them is a good thing I still need the money to feed them, clothe them, house them etc. A total shambles in my opinion and I'm a senior manager at BT!
Gary, London

BT are using the economic situation to screw its workforce. The managers all got bonuses but engineers didn't receive any pay rise. No doubt shareholders will not loose either. Moral is so low amongst engineers yet low rank managers are using everything they can to discipline staff possibly leading to dismissal.
Harry, London

I've worked for BT for the last eight years. I tell you this, another way they are cutting cost by reducing staff is to tighten up rules on the way we work, then discipline us for making mistakes.
James, Brighton

Maybe some of the board can take up that offer. That may change BT fortunes
Sam, Bedford

Since the BT global fiasco, BT Wholesale who was 5-10% ahead of target has had its staffing levels devastated. Again it's the people in suits talking a good job, taking a good bonus but do not produce the results and then move on to another company. Us staff at the bottom more or less, who get our hands dirty and actually do work and produce results seem to be penalised all the time. So I do not think I will be taking them up on their offer.
Mark, Hertfordshire

Better idea than BA appeal. However if "global" was disappointing how come director left with golden handshake?
Les Ford, Southend

I am not a BT worker but I wish I was! I have wanted to do less work for some years (and would be happy to take equivalent less pay) but all the recession means to most of us seems to be no extra money but more and more work. I pretty much only have sleep hours left to myself. I'd give half my salary up to be able to forget work at 5pm till 9am.
Eric, Swindon

I work for the Openreach part of BT and can only laugh at this. Over the years the management of this company have been more than happy to give million pound bonuses and 50%+ pay rises to themselves. Now that the money has dried up they want us to accept less money to help them out, all the while they still earn these ridiculous salaries. They'll get no sympathy from us.
James, Weymouth

So who will do the work should these people take up the offer? My ex-colleagues are already travelling to meetings all over the country in their own time and still expected to complete their obligations to fee-paying customers so how will this help them, ie, the people left? Extending timescales is not something any customer will allow as they have their own business development strategy to abide by and BT are just another supplier. Didn't a BT subsidiary buy another Indian consultancy company earlier this year? Are they indirectly switching jobs from Britain to India?
MP (left BT 2 years ago. Name withheld), Northolt

I think this is a good idea as long as it's voluntary. I have worked for BT for over 6 years and intend to keep my job and continue working there but this would suit my partner who is due to go back to work after taking a year off with our first child.
Chris, Doncaster

I am a BT Engineer and must say that if you wanted to take a year out to study or travel, this option of 25% is ideal. However BT seems more intent on using performance management to 'manage people out of the business' based on flawed statistics and poor/aggressive/bullying management style, because it is cheaper for them to do so
Brian, London

In these difficult times companies such as BT have to do what's best for their company. BT have always stood by their employees. BT are trying there best to avoid redundancies by using this new method which I feel is great - its allowing employees to have an input.
Leanne Marks, Belfast

What a great way for those staff members who would like to take extra holidays or spend time with their children to do so. The 'recession' isn't pleasant for anyone, but in a time of compromise this is a brilliant way of saving compulsory redundancies wherever possible by offering out other options. Well done BT for offering these options instead of imposing them on your workforce. And to those critics, let's start to look and focus on the positives as opposed to the negatives which is always easier to do and damages our communities with its lack of passion and enthusiasm to build a better future with hard work and determination.
Adam Morgan, Wigan

Very progressive and great if done with the full consultation of staff without pressure or duress, however does this not give people the option of reducing and matching hours to maximum state benefit entitlement and handout? If so isn't this just shifting the defect from private investor and shareholder and burdening state instead?
Fred, Birmingham

One executive makes a disastrous business decision that costs the company millions and thousands of low paid workers have to suffer. Great!
Colin Watts, Poole

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