Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

PwC Canada’s Sneaky Layoffs: ‘Leadership Lacks Empathy and Transparency’

Businessman cutting off a row of people into pieces stock illustration

Earlier this month a tipster pointed us to this November 8 article by Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, a Canadian law firm specializing in employment, labor, and disability law: PwC laying off hundreds of workers, Canadians affected.

The article referenced layoffs at both the King’s and down under PwC (UK and Australia), both of which had been mentioned all over the media including here. See: Layoff Watch ’23: PwC UK Needs a Few Hundred People to GTFO (November 7) and Layoff Watch ’23: PwC Australia Is Cutting 4 Percent of the Workforce (November 8). Combined the workforce reduction would affect a little less than 1,000 people depending on how many staff in the UK chose to voluntarily separate themselves.

Though no layoffs had been announced at PwC Canada at this point, the law firm said in their article at least two dozen former PwC Canada staff had contacted them “claiming that they have been let go by the company” and that their lawyers were reviewing these folks’ severance offers. We reached out to the law firm shortly after their article went up but didn’t hear back and so went digging for more info instead.

On November 24 The Globe and Mail published “PricewaterhouseCoopers cuts Canadian jobs, faces legal challenge over severance” and included in it some comments from a lawyer at the firm that published the original notice:

“They have been told it is a restructuring and they have been offered not fantastic packages,” Samfiru Tumarkin employment lawyer Fiona Martyn said in an interview. “They are not insultingly low offers, but they are also not incredibly reasonable or incredibly fair, especially when looking at some of the factors that the courts will look at.”

According to one termination e-mail obtained by The Globe, PwC offered employees whose “services are no longer required” one week of pay per year of service, with benefits to be terminated one week from the date of dismissal. The e-mail also said the severance offer “includes all of our obligations to you, whether statutory, contractual, at common law, or otherwise.”

Within two days the Globe was able to get a statement from PwC and updated their article. Spokesperson Anuja Kale-Agarwal confirmed in an email to them that the firm had indeed made “some limited job reductions,” less than two percent of PwC Canada’s headcount according to her. “These decisions are very difficult and are never taken lightly,” she said. “The impacted individuals were treated fairly.”

PwC Canada employs 7,700+ partners and staff. Subtracting PwC Canada’s 308 partners, a workforce reduction of two percent works out to about 148 individuals, so many more than just the two dozen who initially reached out to the law firm.

Other than the spokeswoman statement there’s been no official announcement from PwC. Though there’s been plenty of reaction to the news and the firm’s lack of transparency. One person we spoke to about the sneaky layoffs had this to say:

“A coworker I knew very well was terminated from his position recently. However, there was no communication from the company regarding the situation or the rationale behind the let-go. The rest of the team continued to act as if everything was normal. This left us uneasy, unsure of who might be affected next. It felt as though we were regarded as disposable resources, easily discarded during economic downturns.

I must express that the Canadian PwC leadership lacks empathy and transparency in handling layoffs, especially when compared to many other prominent companies in Canada.”

Anonymous PwC Canada Employee on recent sneaky layoffs

This sort of action by a Big 4 firm in a time of low attrition and slow business does not lend much credence to statements like “We are not planning layoffs currently as a firm.” Just be real about it, people are going to figure out their colleagues are leaving whether you announce it or not. Why erode trust by choosing to be silent on their sudden disappearance?