Juggling the challenges of raising a new baby with the pressures of returning to work is a struggle many new parents face. Last week, a reputable Sydney law firm instituted policy changes that could see an end to this impossible balancing act.
Ashurst’s new policy introduces fully paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers for 26 weeks. Staff could also enjoy shorter workdays after their return, as targets for ‘billable hours’ will reduce for three months. The firm claims this new global framework will strengthen support for all parents, regardless of gender.
The use of parental leave by fathers in Australia is exceedingly low by global standards. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that only 1 in 20 fathers take primary parental leave. Three in four claim they would have liked to take more leave to care for their families.
In a welcome departure from this trend, Ashurst employees’ gender will no longer affect the length of leave they can access. Ashurst claims it has made an effort to remove gendered language “so there is no distinction between primary/secondary and maternity/paternity”.
While fathers are set to benefit from the changes, creating equality in parental leave is equally valuable for female employees as it suppresses the harmful stereotype that women are a financial liability as they approach child-bearing age.
The Sydney law firm has also introduced allowances for expectant parents who have suffered the heartbreaking loss of a miscarriage. Mothers, partners and surrogate mothers will all be eligible for the full 26 weeks of paid leave if a pregnancy is lost after 20 weeks gestation. Employees who lose a child in earlier stages of pregnancy will be able to take two weeks of paid leave, with an additional 5 days allowance for appointments.
Support groups have long been promoting the value of compensation for early pregnancy loss, claiming it is vital to the physical and psychological welfare of grieving couples. While 98% of pregnancy occurs in the first 12 weeks, employers are not legally bound to provide leave unless the gestation was at least 20 weeks. Read our blog post here. Ashurst’s revolutionary reforms could provide relief for countless employees who would otherwise have to deal with their emotional and physical traumas is silence.
Policies like these are vital for happy, healthy and, ultimately, more productive staff. This is especially true in the legal profession, where practitioners notoriously suffer from poor work-life balance, with 75% claiming they frequently or always work outside of business hours. We can only hope other businesses throughout the country will start to follow in their footsteps.
If you have further questions, or would like to enquire about your legal entitlements to paid leave, do not hesitate to contact us on 8917 8700.