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Harneys lays off 18 workers; over 60 evacuate BVI

Harneys staff at work in the BVI office on Friday, September 29

While noting that it is now occupying only half the space it used in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) prior to Hurricane Irma last month, Harneys announced that it has laid off 18 of its BVI employees – including three lawyers.

“Regrettably, the closure of some of the firm’s office buildings due to [hurricane] damage and the displacement of a number of staff has caused management to take the difficult decision to lay off a small number of people in roles such as office cleaning, operations, and business support,” the local law firm explained.

“In accordance with local law, the redundancies have been made on a temporary basis and the firm has expressed the sincere hope that, as the BVI recovers and Harneys is able re-open more office space, some of those affected employees will be recalled to resume their duties without loss of continuity or seniority. In total, 18 roles are affected, including three lawyers.”

Harneys further stated that more than 60 members of staff – including 22 lawyers -evacuated the territory after Hurricane Irma, and are now working from other Harneys offices or remotely.

“Most of the displaced staff have indicated a wish to return to the BVI and the firm anticipates a number of them returning in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, the firm will continue working to restore and repair viable office space, including re-designing functional office space to accommodate an increased number of people in smaller premises. Presently, the firm is operating in the BVI from approximately 50 per cent of its pre-Irma office space.”

Harneys claimed that it has made ‘impressive progress’ in returning to normal business, adding that it is being assisted by ‘extraordinary local efforts’ to restore facilities and information technology systems.

The company further said: “On September 22, the firm reopened a substantial part of its BVI office and, by Monday of [last] week, had 95 staff back at work – including 17 lawyers and partners.  The firm expects this number to increase to 110 people by the end of next week, representing the majority of the 120 employees who remained in the BVI following the storm… Prior to Irma, Harneys employed over 180 people in the BVI.”

BVI Managing Partner Colin Riegels, in the meantime, said: “We are making strides towards returning to business as usual, and will keep up the momentum over the course of 2017. I would like to publicly express my gratitude to Harneys employees in the BVI and our global offices for their commitment, diligence, and in many cases downright heroism after the impact of Hurricane Irma. It is testimony to the resilience and professionalism of our people that the firm has been able to make such significant progress.”

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