Accenture plans layoffs, sabbaticals

Accenture plans layoffs, sabbaticals

Accenture became the latest IT consulting firm to set workforce reduction plans on Thursday, disclosing that it's looking to cut about 1,400 jobs through a combination of layoffs and voluntary sabbaticals.

The company, which has more than 75,000 employees, said 600 jobs will be permanently eliminated through a restructuring of internal support functions. It also will try to temporarily remove up to 800 workers from the payroll through a sabbatical program aimed at consultants, primarily in the US.

The sabbaticals will last from six to 12 months and are being offered to consulting workers who have been with Accenture for at least one year. Employees who take a sabbatical will continue to get 20 per cent of their salaries plus all corporate benefits and will still be eligible to receive equity awards if an expected initial public offering goes forward, the company said.

Joe Forehand, Accenture's managing partner and CEO, said executives had hoped to avoid the need for any workforce cutbacks. But, he added, "the current economic climate and our lower-than-usual attrition levels have created a modest imbalance between the demand for our services and our current staffing levels."

Accenture, which had revenue of US$5.71 billion during the first half of its current fiscal year, is one of many consulting firms that have had to resort to job reductions because of a slowdown in demand for their services. Users are slashing their technology consulting budgets as part of a general tightening of IT spending driven by the softening economy.

Forehand said the sabbatical program is aimed at lowering Accenture's short-term costs while still allowing it to retain experienced consultants in the expectation that business will eventually improve. Despite the cutbacks, he said, the company expects to have a net increase in total head count of at least 9,000 workers this year.

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