SYDNEY — Edelman has laid off 15 employees in Australia, PRovoke has learned, and is reducing salaries and working hours as the country reels from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of Australia's biggest PR firms, the reduction is just under 20% of Edelman's approximate headcount of 80 in the country. The layoffs come after other marketing services groups, notably Omnicom, have confirmed layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs across their global workforce as the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic becomes increasingly clear

Earlier in the year, global CEO Richard Edelman pledged that the firm would not let go of any staff due to the coronavirus pandemic. An agency spokesperson said that the Australian restructuring "had been planned prior to the public health crisis," but that "the  impact of Covid-19 has made the challenges even more difficult."

“Over the past few months, we have been working hard to review our model in Australia and have taken measures to reduce non-essential costs across Edelman Australia, including IT, entertainment, and travel expenditure," said the spokesperson. "This week, we made a range of other difficult decisions, including reduction of salaries for senior staff, and reduced working hours for some team members. Most regrettably, we have made 15 roles redundant." 

"The pain lies in having to say goodbye to some very talented and hard-working individuals," added the spokesperson. "We are doing everything we can to take care of and support our team members who are affected."

Australia expects the impact of the coronavirus to be worse than the global financial crisis, with a 10% economic contraction in the second quarter alone. Almost 1m people have lost their jobs since mid-March, after a range of businesses — including pubs, restaurants and retailers — were shuttered due to social distancing rules.

Edelman Australia is now led by Michelle Hutton, who returned to the country last year to become CEO and regional chief growth officer. At the end of 2019, the firm added Susan Redden Makatoa as group MD.    

"We are taking the steps, outlined today, in order to focus on our core strengths, while allowing us to double-down on some important innovations that will position Edelman as the agency that can solve the challenges clients face as they look towards recovery," said the spokesperson. "We are immensely proud of the resilience, adaptability and commitment our people have shown throughout this crisis, and believe it is up to us to continue to show leadership as an industry."