18 PEOPLE | LEGAL SECTOR SUSTAINABILITY INSIGHT 2018 FLEXIBLE WORKING Flexibility has become critically important to both males and females as employees seek to balance competing life opportunities and priorities. More and more Australian companies are adjusting the way they work and the systems they have in place which allow people to contribute effectively and efficiently with more time and location flexibility. The technology to support flexible working has improved dramatically over the last five years and the provision of flexible working has become widespread. This has in turn led to flexible working being less of a fringe benefit and more of a core expectation for working lawyers and partners. Introducing flexible working has become one of the most effective methods of helping law firms to retain key talent while helping employees to continue their career, whilst also meeting their personal commitments. Flexibility is linked to a wide range of organisational benefits, including • Attracting new talent • reduced absenteeism • higher retention • higher individual performance • improved organisational performance and productivity. Flexible working also has a significant impact in gender equality in the workplace. Female workforce participation rates have grown from sixty-five percent to seventy-two percent in the five years between 2015 and 2017. More women in the workforce emphasises the need to accommodate the responsibilities shared by both women and men in family life. Flexible work policies encourage the sharing of family responsibilities. Having someone who requires care disrupts the career paths of the higher proportion of women who provide home based caring. This can drive a reduction in the participation of women in the workforce, including law firms, between the ages of thirty and fifty-four. Australian state-based law societies have been active in helping firms to deliver improved flexibility for their practicing members • The Queensland Law Society has developed a Flexible Working Group • The Law Society of New South Wales has published online resources on flexible work • The New South Wales Bar Association has a number of resources on its website • Victorian Women Lawyers have published Flexible Work Protocols – a best practice guide for productive and engaged legal workplaces. • The Law Society of Western Australia has adopted the Victorian Women Lawyers Flexible Work Protocols. Comparison of Flexible Working AusLSA Members Total Legal Services All Professional Services Aust Industry Policy 100% 84% 68% 54% Paid Parental Leave 93% 84% 68% 46% Primary Paid Parental Leave - weeks 16 (related to tenure) 10 11 10 Secondary Carer Leave 93% 81% 55% 39% Source: WGEA Comparison tool FORMAL POLICY PAID PARENTAL LEAVE 93% 7% 100% Yes No Yes