Tag Archive for: gender-neutral parental leave

This article by Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance was published in Law360 on August 11 and in its newsletter on August 14.


Workplace flexibility and caregiver leave have always been important talent recruitment, retention and advancement tools as well as drivers of diversity.

But these initiatives took on even greater significance as the pandemic presented law firms with a daunting challenge when business-as-usual was not an option.

It became even more crucial for firms to figure out how to use flexibility and leave to maintain the success, productivity, engagement and loyalty of their employees, who were struggling to meet extraordinary personal and family needs imposed by COVID-19.

Providing comprehensive paid caregiver leave to all employees enhances their health, engagement and loyalty by demonstrating that the firm cares about, and is willing to invest in, them and their families. Healthy, engaged and loyal employees are more likely to deliver strong performance and support recruitment and retention of a diverse, world-class team.

Read the full article here.

Alliance President & CEO, Manar Morales, was asked to share her perspective on parental leave trends and best practices in law firms in a February 10 Law 360 article. The article, Big Law Fall Short on Parental Leave for Fathers, provides insights into the importance of gender neutral parental leave policies.

“With a primary and secondary designation, that really becomes very gendered and women tend to take the primary leave and men tend to take secondary…When you have a primary and secondary caregiver you create the idea that one person [in a relationship] is devoted to their career and one to the family. It creates a hierarchy where no hierarchy exists.”

— Manar Morales

President & CEO

The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance


If you need help developing your firm or company’s gender neutral parental leave policy, please schedule a call with Manar Morales or reach out to manar@dfalliance.com today.

In an effort to inform and inspire our members and friends, we often share diversity and flexibility Bright Spots – those small or large successes that impact an organization in a positive way. We believe that important diversity and flexibility initiatives can truly impact your organization’s bottom line, recruitment and retention capabilities and employee satisfaction. 


Ogletree Deakins’ gender-neutral Family Leave policy is an impressive Bright Spot.   Comprehensively developed, this policy provides a wide range of support mechanisms for attorneys during and following their family leave.

Ogletree’s family leave initiative includes the following benefits:

  • A gender-neutral Paid Parental Leave (PPL) benefit of up to 16 weeks salary is provided to any attorney on an approved leave after the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child.
  • To further help ease an attorney’s transition back to work after the leave, the firm provides an additional on-ramping program which allows for reduced billable hours for a limited period of time. Attorneys are not required to formally request on-ramping and the program does not affect compensation.
  • Attorneys who are parents also have access to an on-demand back-up childcare service in the event of last minute childcare needs. (This service is also available for the care of an aging parent or other adult dependents.)
  • A “Milk Stork” program supports nursing mothers by coordinating the shipment of milk when the mother is traveling on firm business.
  • A business resource group, ODFamily, serves as a resource to assist parents transitioning back to work.
  • Each new parent has access to an e-course that helps new parents prepare for the transition back to work and offers web community support for questions and resources. New parents are also given a copy of Mindful Return: Back to Work After Baby.


By offering such an inclusive family leave benefit, Ogletree hopes to not only promote and advance women, but to also show its commitment to all new parents, and significantly influence the retention of all of its valuable employees at a critical point in their family life and career.

Please share your Diversity & Flexibility Bright Spots with us by downloading and completing THIS SHORT FORM and emailing it to Jane Caldeira at jane@dfalliance.com

In an effort to inform and inspire our members and friends, we often share diversity and flexibility Bright Spots – those small or large successes that impact an organization in a positive way. We believe that important diversity and flexibility initiatives can truly impact your organization’s bottom line, recruitment and retention capabilities and employee satisfaction. 

Dickinson Wright’s Staff Parental Leave Policy


Detroit-based law firm, Dickinson Wright has implemented a paid parental leave policy for its staff. The new policy, implemented January 1, 2020, allows staff to take up to 12 weeks of full-paid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. The policy is gender neutral and outlines new processes for off-ramping and on-ramping employees.

The Office Administrator and supervisors provide staff members with off-ramping support such as alternative schedule options, re-allocation of work and remote work opportunities. When the staff member returns from parental leave, the firm provides on-ramping benefits including a gradual return schedule, workload planning support, guidance on dealing with any implicit bias, and options for alternative schedules. The Office Administrator continues to check in with employees following a leave for up to one year to make sure that there are no concerns.

The firm has also designated a Parental Leave Coordinator who helps to manage communications between the employee, his or her supervisors, the Office Administrator, the Director of Human Resources and the firm’s Staff Parental Leave Sub-Committee of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee.  The firm also offers a complimentary Employee Assistance Plan for additional resources before, during and after parental leave.

The new staff paid parental leave policy was a core initiative for the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee for 2019 and reflects the firm’s desire to continuously improve the work environment for all employees. The firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee led the effort in conjunction with firm management and the Staff Parental Leave Sub-Committee (comprised of both lawyers and non-lawyer staff members).


The response from Dickinson Wright employees has been very positive and the firm has seen an uptick in morale from both attorneys and staff. Recognizing that its non-attorney policy was outdated and did not reflect the current dynamics of working families, the firm demonstrated that it values its staff and believes in supporting all employees.  Further, the firm is showing its commitment to retaining and recruiting highly talented staff members. This initiative has strengthened the culture of inclusivity at the firm and will be seen as an asset when recruiting prospective employees.


Please share your Diversity & Flexibility Bright Spots with us by downloading and completing THIS SHORT FORM and emailing it to Jane Caldeira at jane@dfalliance.com

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility. Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

More organizations are launching gender-neutral parental leave policies so that the amount of caregiving/bonding leave time is the same regardless of gender. According to our 2017 Law Firm Benchmarking Survey, the vast majority of law firms surveyed provided paid gender-neutral leave to attorneys (89% of respondents) and staff (67% of respondents).

There are strong business benefits when all employees utilize parental leave policies. First, there are recruiting and retention advantages. Employees, especially millennials, have indicated that flexibility, work-life control, and family time are important factors when choosing/staying at a job. Second, workplace engagement, productivity, and loyalty will increase when all employees take parental leave by preventing burnout and undue stress. Third, organizations can also lower family healthcare costs by encouraging all employees to take parental leave; new mothers without support face higher medical/mental health issues.  See our Action Step, Paid Leave Policies, for more details on the business benefits of gender-neutral parental leave…

To read this entire Action Step and learn more about gender-neutral parental leave policies become a member of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. Contact Eliza Musallam, Director of Membership, for more information. Members can access the complete Action Step in the Member Resource Center


In 2019, we will be sharing diversity and flexibility Bright Spots – those small or large successes that impact your organization in a positive way. We believe that important diversity and flexibility initiatives can truly impact your organization’s bottom line, recruitment and retention capabilities and employee satisfaction. 


One of international law firm Winston & Strawn’s Bright Spots is its Gender-Neutral Parental Leave Policy. After working with the Alliance to clearly identify employee needs and firm goals, Winston & Strawn was able to expand its parental leave policy to better support the demands of today’s families. Implemented in 2016, the policy allows 20 weeks of paid leave for attorneys regardless of gender to care for and bond with a new baby or child. Additionally, parents are not required to designate themselves as “primary” or “secondary” caregivers. The parental leave can be taken at one time or in two increments within a year of the birth or adoption of a child.

Winston also developed a Parental Leave Transition Support Program that includes a Parental Leave Liaison, an external, confidential career coach, and “ramp down” and “ramp up” periods during which billable hours are adjusted to aid in the transition for new parents. The policy applies to all US-based Associates and Of Counsel attorneys. Improvements also were made to the policies for practice attorneys and staff.


By removing the primary and secondary caregiver designations, Winston & Strawn has been able to shift the focus of parental leave from one that focuses on just women to one that focuses on all parents. Since the implementation of the policy, the firm has seen a consistent year-over-year increase in the percentage of men taking parental leave, as well as the length of leave time taken by men. For example, the average length of parental leave taken by men in 2018 was more than double the average length of time taken prior to the implementation of the policy. In addition, in 2018, over 20% of men taking parental leave took 18-20 weeks, in either one or two increments.

The Parental Leave Liaison and coach have been instrumental in helping attorneys maintain their connection to the firm and feel supported before, during and after their leave, with many associates choosing to participate in the firm-provided coaching. The policy has allowed parents at Winston & Strawn to find long-term career success while also caring for their families. Winston received Family Leave category honors in Yale Law Women’s “Top Family Friendly Firms of 2017,” an honor that will undoubtedly impact recruitment.

Since receiving the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s 2017 Flex Impact Award, Winston & Strawn has been seen as a trailblazer in the field. The firm is helping to drive innovation and inspire other firms to reevaluate their policies to better meet the needs of today’s families. The Alliance has seen an increase in these types of Gender-Neutral policies which can have a significant impact on the culture of flexibility and can clearly impact recruitment and retention.

Please share your Diversity & Flexibility Bright Spots with us by downloading and completing THIS SHORT FORM and emailing it to Jane Caldeira at jane@dfalliance.com

Note: This post was first published on March 14, 2018 on 1 Million For Work Flexibility’s blog. 1MFWF is the first national initiative bringing people together to create a collective voice in support of work flexibility, and the Alliance is a supporting organization. Thank you to 1MFWF for allowing us to share our news about our 2018 Flex Impact Awards!

As an organization that collaborates with corporations and professional services firms on the development, implementation and management of their flexible work initiatives, we are thrilled when a company goes above what is required by law and beyond what is the norm in their industry. Each year at our annual conference we honor the corporations and firms that we believe are setting the trends in flexibility and truly impacting the workforce.

This year, we have selected tech giant Dell and international law firms Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP and White & Case LLP as our 2018 Flex Impact Award honorees for their initiatives that we believe are poised to have a significant impact on the culture of workplace flexibility. All three of these organizations have demonstrated their willingness to invest in their employees and lead their industries with more progressive approaches to flexible work and leave policies. Each of these initiatives is aimed at better meeting the needs of a new generation of employees, while also positively impacting inclusion, recruitment and retention of top talent.

We will be honoring Dell for its worldwide flexible work initiative, Connected Workplace, which has enabled the corporation to increase employee engagement and retention, conserve natural resources and energy, cut back on real estate expenses and reduce transportation pollution. This initiative encourages all eligible employees to choose where and when they work and provides the technology needed for team collaboration and flexibility training. Additionally employees have access to a resource group, called Conexus, that helps remote team members connect to share best practices, network and develop camaraderie. Dell’s Executive Leadership team has led the initiative by working remotely themselves and emphasizing flexibility as a key component of the company’s culture and integral part of its business strategy.

Fried Frank will be honored for its full-pay, “on-ramping” policy, which allows employees returning from parental leave to gradually return to full-time over a six-month period. Caregivers are thereby allowed to slowly ease their way back into work after leave by working a 75 percent schedule while receiving full compensation. By committing to a relatively small financial investment in its employees who are new parents, Fried Frank has been able to retain employees who might otherwise have been overwhelmed with the stress of full-time work and parenthood.

White & Case will be honored for its new gender-neutral parental leave policy that eliminates the primary and secondary caregiver designation and is also offered to both attorneys and staff. The firm’s policy allows all parents to take 12 weeks of leave any time within 12 months following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. By extending the same benefits to attorneys and staff members, no matter the level or position, White & Case has been able to foster a more inclusive environment and demonstrate its commitment to supporting all of its employees.

The 2018 Flex Impact Awards will be presented at the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s annual conference Diversity + Flexibility = Embracing Change on March 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. The conference is an interactive, one-day event delivering the latest trends, cutting-edge research and best practices in diversity and flexibility and attracts professionals from all industries. Our conference is designed to provide attendees with the opportunity to hear expert insights and first-hand perspectives from top-level executives and acquire concrete strategies to implement real change in their organizations.

More information and registration for the conference are available here.

Manar Morales is the President & CEO of The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, and a national thought leader on women’s leadership, diversity, and workplace flexibility. The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, a 1MFWF supporter, is a think tank dedicated to providing practical solutions that increase organizational effectiveness and create high performance cultures through diversity and flexibility.