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Progressive Parental Leave and Flexible Work Programs Becoming a Major Industry Priority

Washington, DC – February 26, 2020 – The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance announced today that the results of its 2019 Law Firm Flexibility Benchmarking Study show that the industry is making measurable improvements to the quality and breadth of its parental leave and flexible work policies.

This study consisted of one-on-one interviews with leaders and talent professionals from 50 major law firms and serves to provide multilayered trends, insights and data about successes and challenges with parental leave and flexible work programs and practices. The goal of the initiative is to examine the availability and accessibility of holistic flexible work and parental leave policies, in particular, the types of policies, the features of these policies, and the support/resources around these policies.

The study found that virtually all firms interviewed have continued to offer formal gender-neutral leave and flexibility to attorneys, and many also offer on-ramping (gradual return-to-work) programs to attorneys returning from parental leave. Additionally, a significant number of firms are demonstrating a strong commitment to these policies by removing caregiver designations, increasing the amount of paid leave time generally, and offering fully-paid on-ramping.

However, the study also found that more firms need to provide better support structures around flexible work programs in order to promote better usage, true acceptance and accessibility for all. More firms should focus on offering education around flexible work, flexible work affinity groups, true-up policies to compensate reduced hours lawyers who work more than their agreed upon schedule, and more comprehensive and consistent monitoring mechanisms. Additionally, the study revealed that there is a substantial, qualitative gap between staff and attorney parental leave and flexible work programs.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the majority of firms are beginning to understand that by making minor adjustments to their leave and flexible working policies they can reap major benefits and meet the needs of a new generation,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “We are encouraged that many firms are committing to more progressive parental leave initiatives, however, we hope more firms will commit to building more robust and inclusive policies for all attorneys and staff,” she added. “These relatively inexpensive tools can mean the difference between retaining and loosing a valuable employee at a pivotal time in their lives,” she added.

The report is available to members of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance (in the Member Resource Center), as well as other participating firms. Detailed results and analysis will be presented during the Alliance’s Flex Launch! NYC – A Boot Camp for Flex Advisors – on Thursday, March 12 (open to non-members). To access this report, contact Manar Morales for more information on Membership.

The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

Contact: Manar Morales

manar@dfalliance.com

202-957-9650

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.

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

In Part I of this Action Step, we discussed recent developments in on-ramping policies, including full-time pay for professionals working a temporary, reduced hours schedule after returning from a leave of absence. In this second part, we explore resources organizations need to establish to support a smooth on-ramping process, including what needs to take place before a leave of absence starts.

Mobilize Your Flex Management Team: Establishing a point person to manage the on-ramping process is an important first step to implementing a successful gradual return to work from leave policy. This coordinating role is typically fulfilled by a flex program manager or a human resources professional who handles the organization’s flex and leave policies. The on-ramping coordinator should be easy to identify and be listed wherever an organization houses details about the types of leaves of absence that would trigger an on-ramping schedule. This role should be responsible for contacting professionals before they go on leave, just before returning, and again upon returning to work to discuss processes and available resources. The on-ramping coordinator should also track on-ramping usage and monitor experiences of on-ramping professionals to provide a basis for celebrating the program’s success and/or making improvements.

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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

On-ramping policies, also known as gradual return to work from leave policies, continue to serve as a low-cost, high-value bridge between leaves of absence and flexible work. They are simple to implement, effective as a pilot for reduced hours work arrangements, and have a positive impact on retention at a pivotal time in the careers of many professionals. Our Action Step, Tips for Starting an On-Ramping Policy describes how organizations can reap these and other benefits of on-ramping with a well-designed policy. Here, the Alliance builds on these tips to share recent developments and additional best practices in on-ramping in this two-part Action Step series.

As evidence of the value of on-ramping, a growing number of law firms, for example — including some Alliance members — have bolstered their policies to provide full-time pay to individuals on a temporary reduced hours schedule upon return from leave. In addition to a desire to increase on-ramping’s retention benefits, these firms recognize there is a natural ramp-up period when professionals return from an extended leave of absence, and historically, professionals have been paid full-time during that period in the absence of on-ramping policies…

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