Australian law firms have begun to implement new paid parental leave policies as the increasing number of female lawyers has led to the provision of a more flexible workplace.
Mallesons Stephen Jaques has increased its paid parental leave from 12 weeks, accumulated according to years of service, to 14 weeks after one year of employment. The firm has also increased its leave for secondary carers, from one week to three weeks' paid leave.
"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," said Mallesons' executive director of people and development Kate Rimer.
Rimer noted that women now account for approximately 60 per cent of the firm's annual graduate intake and said the firm is committed to encouraging women to stay and progress to the top of the firm.
Mallesons was the first firm to introduce paid parental leave and in 2005 the firm formalised its flexible working arrangements to support those returning from parental leave.
Another firm with a similar policy is Corrs Chambers Westgarth, which has offered 14 weeks' paid parental leave since November 2005 and offers secondary care takers three weeks' leave.
"We have been well ahead of the pack for a very, very long time," said Corrs' director of human resources, Alexis Navie. "For us it's more about retention of our existing staff [and] of course it's going to help us attract new recruits to the firm as well."
In recognition of the firm's flexible workplace policies, Corrs was recently awarded a special commendation at the Victorian Government's 2010 Fair and Flexible Employer Recognition Awards.
The awards recognise organisations across Victoria that have developed innovative programs in policy and practice that improve the work and family balance of their employees.
Corrs was recognised for its broad focus on supporting families through initiatives such as flexible working arrangements, career resilience training, mentoring, executive coaching and the establishment of a female talent pipeline.
The firm's flexible work program includes part-time work, career breaks, purchased annual leave and flexible working hours.
"In the last two years, more than 110 - probably 115 - of our partners and staff have taken up or been paid some form of parental leave," said Navie. "There has been a massive uptake and in fact the numbers have increased over the last 12 months."