Is flexible working a legal right?

Is-Flexible-working-a-legal-right

This year marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 that paved the way for women to enter into the legal profession. In the first in a series of articles we look at some of the challenges encountered by women working in the legal sector…

A recent report (paywall) found that just 52% of solicitors at law firms were working flexibly to some degree, compared to 66% of other UK professionals. Is flexible working a right and is it vital for encouraging more women into the industry? Are you able to work flexibly and how important has it been for you?

Hayley Marles DAS Law Senior Associate Solicitor

Having two small children – juggling school and nursery drop-offs and pick-ups whilst living an hour away from the workplace – means I feel as though I am constantly chasing my tail.

Without the ability to work flexibly, I honestly do not know how I would be able to enjoy my work. Perhaps most importantly, I am more productive and efficient whilst I am in the office because I have to be – I cannot go home and switch on with little ones around me.

Working flexibly means I have the ability to be a good lawyer while being there for my children as much as possible, which is priceless!

Working from home also allows me to take my children to school or nursery myself which is important for my wellbeing, given the awful and well-known torture of ‘mum guilt’.

In practical terms, it also means I cut out the long commute – I avoid sitting in the car or on the train for over two hours a day, sometimes more. I am able to get more out of my day, maintain productivity, and above all, do the job that I love whilst still doing a good job as a mum.

The ability to work flexibly is not a ‘right’, but for me, it is worth more than money. I am lucky that my employer understands the importance of me attending parents’ evenings, school assemblies and the like. Working flexibly means I have the ability to be a good lawyer while being there for my children as much as possible, which is priceless!

Hannah Parsons DAS Law Principal Associate Solicitor

The legal profession can sometimes lag behind other industries when it comes to family-friendly working practices, but the landscape is changing.

I have been lucky to work at firms and with managers who embrace the opportunities that flexible working can bring, and who understand that by putting measures in place to ensure that parents do not have to sacrifice their family or working lives, they simply get the best from them.

The legal profession can sometimes lag behind other industries when it comes to family-friendly working practices, but the landscape is changing.

It is often the relatively small flexibilities that have had the most impact, such as allowing me to work my hours around things such as the first day at school, sports day, or Christmas concerts.

I have also managed women returning from maternity leave and have always been sympathetic to requests to work part time (where operational needs allow), or when emergency time off is unavoidable.

I always make the process as smooth as possible for the member of staff because I understand the challenges that working parents face.

Penelope Heighton DAS Law Senior Associate Solicitor

As a working mother of young children, the ability to work flexibly is hugely important, allowing me to maintain a work/life balance that suits me and my family. As DAS Law supports me with this, I feel motivated to go that extra mile at work.

Flexibility is key as employees have diverse needs. Everyone’s situation is different – some working parents have grandparents nearby that help out, others do not. I have quite a commute to work so being allowed to work from home one day per week enables me to do the school drop off on that day, which means a lot to my kids and to me. I also get a lot of work done!

Flexibility is key as employees have diverse needs…some working parents have grandparents nearby that help out, others do not.

I am fortunate that DAS Law promoted me to a role with greater responsibility but allowed me to continue working part-time four days per week. This makes for a better balance between managing a challenging job and having a life outside work with young children.

Authored by DAS

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