In-house counsel less satisfied with workplace support than last year
New data shows that fewer lawyers working in-house are satisfied with company policies for workplace support.
The 2019 In-House Counsel Trends Report, undertaken by the Association of Corporate Counsel Australia, was completed in August of this year by 363 respondents from across a range of industries, and aims to provide insight into “consistent and emerging challenges, working conditions and practices” of and for in-house legal teams across the country.
According to the report, there was a decrease in satisfaction with workplace policies support of caregivers and parents, with 85 per cent of respondents last year believing they were adequately supported, compared to 79 per cent this year.
Of the available workplace support options, working from home remained the most highly utilised work-life balance initiative, with 84 per cent of respondents stating they take up opportunities to work from home.
Other popular initiatives included: a reduced hours schedule (37 per cent), fitness and wellness programs (31 per cent), additional leave days (31 per cent), rostered days off (10 per cent) and childcare facilities (4 per cent).
While four out of five respondents felt supported as caregivers and parents, ACC wrote, “almost one in three felt reluctant to take advantage of their organisation’s work-life balance policies, as they felt it may adversely reflect on them in their workplace”.
The main reasons people were concerned, it continued, about the impact of taking up work-life balance polices were: adversely impacting future career goals (17 per cent), not being seen as a team player (13 per cent), disconnection between organisation’s polices and direct manager’s requirements (13 per cent), direct manager believing nine-to-five workers are most efficient (10 per cent) and colleagues and peers make too many negative comments about ﬂexible working (7 per cent).
“Direct comments made by respondents recurringly referred to time and workload pressures making it impossible to take up ﬂexible options. The trend of expectations of being on call for instant responses posed a further problem,” ACC wrote.
“While some referred to expectations of line managers standing in the way of life responsibilities, others noted their own high standards were the reason for maintaining traditional working hours and conditions.
“While the trend over the past five years has been for more virtual, contract and home business activity, the in-house legal community is resistant to evolving working conditions. Being physically present in offices from nine-to-five is still the prominent norm. This is in part due to the high number of meetings required within the profession.”
The research also revealed the volume of work being undertaken by those in-house every week as well as the reasons why in-house legal departments will utilise a NewLaw firm.
Elsewhere, it showed the extent to which corporate counsel will go directly to barristers for their expertise, and their reasons for doing so.