New mums and dads at Clyde & Co can now enjoy six months of night feeds and nappy runs without worrying about work thanks to the firm's introduction of the gold standard of parental leave policies.
New parents at Clyde's, whether or not they are their child's primary carer, are now entitled to 26 weeks’ fully paid leave, provided they’ve worked at the firm for at least a year.
As it's not subject to shared parental leave criteria, the time can be taken off regardless of whatever leave the other parent is taking.
Many firms do not offer 26 weeks of maternity leave at full pay, and rolling out the same deal to dads is an even scarcer perk.
A typical offering is DAC Beachcroft's, where mums receive 12 weeks at full salary and then 12 weeks at 50% of salary, and dads make do with a fortnight at full pay, with the possibility after that of shared parental leave with enhanced pay.
A source at Clyde & Co said the firm had matched Ashurst, which introduced a best-in-class parental leave policy in 2021.
At both firms the perk is global, benefitting parents wherever they work, and applies to primary and secondary parents and carers, including adopters.
Carolena Gordon, Clyde & Co‘s senior partner, said, "We know how much goes into starting a family and the challenges that balancing home and work brings, especially when working in a high-performance environment. We want to help our people build careers with us and fulfil their potential here”.
There’s the hope, too, that making life more pleasant for new parents will tackle the problem of female lawyers leaving private practice in ever greater numbers as they move up the career ladder. “We also believe our offering is an important means of improving gender diversity, particularly at a senior level where law firms have typically struggled to make significant progress”, said Gordon.
Other elements of the policy include 10 days fully paid leave for fertility treatment, up to 12 additional weeks’ paid leave for parents with children in neonatal care, four weeks fully paid leave for pregnancy loss in the first 20 weeks, and up to 26 weeks’ paid leave for pregnancy loss after 20 weeks.
Crediting conversations with employees and the firm’s gender equality network for giving rise to the initiative, Kate Mathias, Clydes’ Chief People Officer, said it would even apply retrospectively.
“We also want to ensure as many colleagues as possible benefit from the policy which is why we’re extending this enhanced offering to those who are already new parents or may have recently returned from parental leave”, she said. So no escape to the office for knackered new parents. Get back to the Ella pouches and vommed-on cardies.
Karen Davies, Global Chair at Ashurst, told RollOnFriday its landmark parental leave policy had proved popular since its introduction in 2021: “the feedback we have had from our people since its launch, and seeing the positive impact it is having on our workforce, has really reaffirmed its success. It is encouraging to see that other firms are joining us in this journey".
Responses to the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2023 bore that out, with one Ashurst respondent crediting the the firm for having "supported me massively" after a still birth, which included full maternity pay for six months and being "very accommodating with my return to work”.
Parental leave remains a source of contention in many firms. Golden Turd BCLP was pulled up for its “terrible maternity leave policy” in ROF's survey, on the basis that it comprised “13 weeks at 90% pay and 13 weeks at 50% pay”.
Burges Salmon's parental leave policy, which is on a par with many other firms', produced some of the few complaints about the Best Law Firm to Work At 2023. “The only thing I don't like about the firm is the maternity policy”, said one respondent, referring to the provision for mums of 13 weeks' full pay and 13 weeks' half pay, and two week's fully-paid leave for dads (plus the option of enhanced parental pay under the shared parental leave scheme).
A respondent at another firm indicated that at her office, the prevailing view of parental leave was that taking it denoted a lack of ambition. A lawyer at the national firm recalled how, when she announced she was pregnant, she was told by a colleague "openly in a team meeting that I was a 'part timer' and they hoped I would enjoy my 'nine month holiday.' The partners actually laughed”.
If lawyers do leave, they may be in for a nasty surprise. One lawyer complained to ROF that her firm required her to pay back her maternity leave compensation when she decided to quit, because it was structured as a conditional loan.
“I have personally been required to repay this ‘maternity leave loan’ which is essentially an unspoken tax on woman for having a child”, she said.
“It is not a format that any other progressive country adopts and I was shocked that my law firm even tried to enforce such an unfair term after I generated so much profit for them during my tenure”, said the lawyer, adding that it was “particularly difficult given I had never wanted to stop working...I had simply asked to work remotely for 12 months”.
When it comes to parental leave, is your shop the cutest baby, not quite sleeping through, or producing massive amounts of poo all the way up its back just after you used the last nappy in the pack? Drop us a line or sound off in the comments.