LAW firms across the country have been sending out alerts to clients about the impending changes to paid parental leave from 1 January next year. The changes themselves won’t affect lawyers, who usually earn too much to be included in the benefits. But one top tier law firm has now risen to the challenge.
Mallesons Stephen Jaques has become the first top-tier law firm in Australia to offer 14 weeks’ paid parental leave to both female and male staff. The firm’s secondary carer's leave has also been increased.
The newly announced Mallesons deal came into effect on 1 July and will provide most of its women lawyers with more financial support than the federal government’s new scheme of paid parental leave. The government’s scheme is limited to those who earn less than $150,000, less than the average income of a lawyer with six years’ experience at a private law firm.
Mallesons’ new policy increases the firm's benefit from 12 weeks, accumulated according to years of service, to 14 weeks after just one year of employment. Secondary carers now receive three weeks' paid leave, up from one week.
Announcing the new policy, Mallesons' chief executive partner, Robert Milliner said: "We are keen to ensure we maintain our position as a leading employer. One of the undertakings we gave to our staff as a result of their feedback, was to review our current parental leave policy and this policy flows in part from that feedback. We understand that an appropriate level of paid parental leave is a benefit that staff highly value."
Mallesons' executive director of people and development Kate Rimer said: "This policy is another step in our range of initiatives to support working parents and ongoing flexible working arrangements for both male and female employees."
Rimer said that women now account for approximately 60 per cent of the firm’s annual graduate intake. “We are committed to encouraging women to stay on and go to the top of the firm," she said.
Mallesons was the first firm to introduce paid parental leave and in 2005 formalised its flexible working arrangements to support those returning from parental leave.
Mallesons, with a small list of other law firms, has a good reputation when it comes to looking after its women lawyers. The federal Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) earlier this year listed 12 law firms with offices in Australia as demonstrating they have policies and practices supporting women across their organisations.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Baker & McKenzie, Allens Arthur Robinson, Blake Dawson, Cooper Grace Ward, Freehills, Holding Redlich, Gilbert + Tobin, Maddocks, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, McCullough Robertson and Sparke Helmore were each recognised on the list.
The law firms were ranked among 95 total organisations on the government’s employer of choice for women list.