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NSW CSO excels as equal opportunity employer

NSW CSO excels as equal opportunity employer

THE NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office (CSO), Freehills and Clayton Utz were among the big winners of the NSW Law Society’s awards for equality in employment opportunities (EEO) last week

THE NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office (CSO), Freehills and Clayton Utz were among the big winners of the NSW Law Society’s awards for equality in employment opportunities (EEO) last week.

The CSO won the trophy for large firm or organisation, praised for expansive EEO policy and practices, with regard to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, disabled people and solicitors with carer responsibility.

“It’s nice to get the recognition,” Grant Doyle, business services manager at the CSO told Lawyers Weekly.

“It also has advantages, we think, in attracting and retaining staff — to get public acknowledgement of our flexible work practices and our commitment to equity in the workplace.”

As the public sector office is limited in the salaries it can offer, Doyle said that progressive EEO policies are one way to attract talented lawyers.

“We’re a bit limited in that regard, so we’re using our ability to offer flexible work as a way of competing for the best staff,” he said. “We attract huge numbers of young lawyers to the organisation.”

As the judges on the Law Society panel found, the CSO is in many ways an ideal place to work. It sets reasonable working hours: a standard seven-hour day with an average of five billable hours. And “if they work more than seven hours a day, they accrue the balance towards flex leave,” Doyle said.

Sick leave can be converted to carers leave, work from home is an option, and the CSO even allows staff extended periods away to study, travel, or “in some cases to undertake other employment, where that would be in their interests and ours — for example, where they are gaining new skills that they can apply back in the workplace here”.

Despite receiving such a glowing review of their practices, Doyle said there was still room for improvement.

“We recently engaged consultants to undertake a review of best practice in the legal services industry, and they’ve confirmed [even though] we’re the leaders in flexible work in most aspects, there’s probably only one area where we need to improve, and that’s in the availability of part-time work.”

Separated by firm or organisation size, the EEO awards were created to encourage the practical implementation of fair employment policies, including, but not confined to, target groups such as women.

Also recognised was Australian Business Lawyers and the Department of Housing (Legal Services Branch), who shared the award in the small to medium organisation category, for their respective long-term commitments to EEO, despite limitations of size and resources.

Flexibility in the workplace, in part through the use of round table meetings and partner-led practice group plans, saw Freehills become the recipient of a special award. Managing partner Gavin Bell said that, rather than isolating individual policies, the award was a tribute to the firm’s overall strategy of flexibility.

“We’ve recognised that there’s a much greater need for flexibility, obviously to accommodate, in part, women’s careers and the needs of families,” he said. “But it’s not just women who look for flexibility — a number of the men working with us work in flexible arrangements.

“It’s just recognising that people have different needs, and trying to adapt as best we can,” Bell said.

An impressive approach to maternity leave saw Moray & Agnew win the ‘starters’ category, awarded to a firm or organisation embarking on the initial stages of a longer term EEO strategy. The firm offers up to eight weeks’ paid maternity leave, recognised as a commendable attempt to keep female employees in the workplace.

A commendation was awarded to Clayton Utzfor what the Law Society described as “state-of-the-art policies and support processes” that operate hand in glove with the firm’s business practices.

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