Can law firms offer roles that ease the pain of managing work and childcare?

We think so, and some firms are forging ahead in supporting female talent by trying to ease the pain of managing work and childcare. Some of our clients e.g. Pinsent Masons, Addleshaw Goddards openly promote their roles as open to flexible working at the point of hire and we would welcome more firms to follow their lead.

A BBC Radio 4 programme ‘You and Yours’ recently put UK childcare costs under the spotlight once again. Many parents welcomed the introduction of 30-hours’ free childcare for their three and four-year-olds – a rise from the previous 15 hours. But, as this feature showed, these offerings never come without complications. On one hand nurseries have complained that they cannot afford to cover their costs under new funding levels, while on the other, parents of younger children worry that additional costs will be passed onto them through higher fees.

For all parents, it’s another reminder of the difficult juggle faced in returning to work after having children. For many (typically mothers) the rise of flexible and part-time work has been a God-send allowing some room for manoeuvre to balance work and childcare. But as this programme showed, it remains for many a difficult financial balance: returning to work is critical to maintain the family income but pointless if wiped out by childcare costs.

Some parents return to work knowing that any income will be flatlined by nursery fees. They are effectively working for nothing. But they do so for the long-term payback of remaining in work and progressing their careers as best they can through these early years.
But this is a fact that can still be lost on employers and colleagues who do not face the childcare juggle. There can still be an obstacle to offering good part-time and flexible work – an inability to see how a job can be done differently as well as a view that such employees are ‘less committed’ than their full-time counterparts. The need to strictly leave the office on time to collect a child from nursery can still be frowned upon by those who can stay after hours.

Given what many women go through to get back to work after having children, however, it seems deeply unfair to stereotype them with a lack of commitment. If they have an employer that understands and supports their return to work with decently paid, flexible contracts, mothers will also likely offer loyalty and a keen motivation to get the job done well in the time given. They have a lot to lose if they don’t.

That is why at Attune Flexible Jobs we are delighted to be working with more law firms that understand the benefits of retaining female talent after having children. In recent years, many firms have launched programmes to support mothers returning to work after maternity leave. Meanwhile, and perhaps more importantly, we are seeing more flexible and part-time business services roles come into law. Flexible options at these most senior levels of law are a sign of changing culture – a belief that things can indeed be done differently.

This is great news for all parents, but particularly mums who still typically face the childcare juggle. Nursery costs are never going to go away – the financial and logistical balancing act goes on. But with more employers – including law firms – offering a way for parents to manage childcare alongside interesting and career-progressing work, the struggle may become easier. And the bonus is that employers get to retain the talent that promotes business growth. A win-win in our book.

If you would like to know more about posting your flexible working roles or have a flexible working story to share, please contact Sarah.Broad@attunejobs.com

Remote working, Flexible working, Working mums, Pinsent Masons, Addleshaw Goddard

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