By DebbieH 09 Apr 2013 7 min read

Flexi-time could be the key to law staff retention

Flexi-time schemes could improve staff attraction and retention rates in law firms, according to the Douglas Scott 2013 Salary and Benefits Benchmarker.  The survey found that almost half of respondents (43%) put flexible working on the top of their wish list of benefits New extended family-related leave came into force in the UK in March and there is a wider trend to offer improved flexible working arrangements in many job sectors. The findings of the survey suggest that offering lawyers and legal support staff flexible working as a bonus could have a big impact on retention figures in law firms.

Douglas Scott surveyed legal staff all over the UK and found that only 19% of employees were on any sort of flexi-time arrangement at work, even though almost half of respondents (43%) put it on the top of their wish list of benefits. However there was a great deal of variation across legal sectors. For instance 73% of public sector employed respondents were on flexi-time as opposed to 16% in general practice, 13.6% in top 100 UK firms and only 11.5% in multi-branch private practice. Law job role was also a factor with 20% of qualified candidates having the benefit of some kind of flexi-time arrangement as opposed to only 7% in legal support.

Perhaps not surprisingly female respondents valued the benefit of flexi-time more than men, with 51% of the former opting for it as their number one desired benefit, as opposed to 30% of the latter. And the Law Society Annual Statistical Report 2011 seems to suggest that women will soon overtake in terms of numbers of practicing Solicitors. In 2011 women made up 46.5% of Solicitors with a Practice Certificate, 63.5% of new traineeships and 59.1% of new admissions.

Changes to parental leave 

As of March 2013, the right to unpaid parental leave has been increased from 13 weeks to 18 weeks in accordance with the EU Parental Leave Directive, implemented now. Changes to other family-related leave directives are expected from 2015 when all employees will also have the right to request flexi-time and employers are increasingly seeing the need to offer more flexible working arrangements to suit different employees’ needs. Mike Emmott, the CIPD’s employee relations adviser, comments that: “Most employers already recognise that flexible working is an integral part of the modern workplace and thus are happy to consider requests from any employee, even beyond the statutory minimum.”

Kath Riley, MD of Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment, agrees and points out that flexible working hours could be the key to retaining more staff for longer: “We have discovered a contrast – that flexi time is not a popular benefit with employers but is with employees, particularly females. With women about to become the majority could flexi time catch on and will it be the key to better staff retention?”

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