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Accenture Releases Plans to Cut Workforce by 1,500

In an effort to improve operational efficiency, Accenture today announced that it will be reducing its worldwide staff by approximately 1,500 employees, or 2 percent of its workforce. According to Accenture, the reduction is a result of both the company's lowest attrition rate in years and a general deceleration in the global economy.

The reduction primarily will affect the company's U.S. consultants and a smaller amount of worldwide support positions. As a result of the restructuring of certain functions, the company will be eliminating positions previously held by employees.

Accenture also plans to further cut operational costs by offering six-12-month sabbaticals to consulting personnel at the senior-manager level and below in Europe and Asia. Called FlexLeave, the sabbatical program has been successful in other regions, such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. According to Joe W. Forehand, Accenture chairman and CEO, the FlexLeave program "was extremely well-received by our people. As a result, we're going to expand this innovative program to Europe and Asia. This should give us additional flexibility to manage our workforce even more effectively."

Employees participating in FlexLeave receive 20 percent of their salaries and continue to receive employer-provided benefits throughout the duration of their sabbatical.

"With voluntary attrition rates in the low single digits in some parts of the world and temporary excess capacity due to a shift in our business mix from shorter-term consulting projects to a greater focus on longer-term business transformation outsourcing, we are taking these actions after our normal annual budget review and management plan to ensure that our staffing levels are better balanced with client demand," Forehand said.

In addition, Accenture's Board of Directors has authorized the repurchase of up to $150 million worth of shares of its common stock from time to time in the open market. According to the company, the Board's decision to authorize the share repurchases reflects the fact that it believes its shares are undervalued and represent an attractive investment opportunity as a result of current market conditions.