Allen & Overy has joined several law firms in tweaking policies to support staff balancing work and childcare commitments or other caring responsibilities, in light of the U.K. plunging into a third national lockdown this week.
On Monday, the U.K. government announced a national lockdown following a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections. As part of the measures, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges are closed, and expected to continue with remote working until at least the February half-term break.
A&O has ‘reset’ its emergency leave policy for staff in response to the latest lockdown restrictions. The firm had allowed its staff to use five days of emergency leave during a 12 month rolling period, but this has now been reset to allow those who had already used the days up to benefit from another five days.
A firm spokesperson said staff can use days for several scenarios to allow flexibility: ”There are many options, for example, employees can stagger their emergency paid leave so they work half a day or they could reduce their hours and take emergency leave/holiday for the remaining period to remain on full pay or take any amount of unpaid leave, parental leave or holiday to ensure they are supported during lockdown.”
Meanwhile, listed firm DWF has provided an additional day as part of its Carers Leave policy, now providing 1.5 days to give people more flexibility while caring for a dependant. HR director, Helen Hill, said the firm wants to be “as supportive as possible” and is offering a range of flexible working options, including changing times of work or reducing working hours.
Eversheds Sutherland has also reintroduced its enhanced holiday scheme until the end of February, which provides staff with an additional day of holiday for every four taken to care for others. It has also enhanced its Time Off for Dependents Policy to help those who are balancing work and family or caring responsibilities, this time offering three days of fully paid emergency leave.
The firm said it will also continue to adopt its flexible working approach, including staggered hours, alternate days, morning, afternoon and evening working.
These changes echo similar changes in the wider business sector. On Wednesday, insurance company Zurich introduced an additional 10 days paid leave for its U.K. staff, the company said in a statement.
Other law firms are continuing to review their policies amid a rapidly changing situation.
TLT already allows four days of paid leave for immediate challenges, and this is teamed with other flexible measures, such as flexible working times and a temporary reduction of hours. A spokesperson said the firm will continue to review its approach in the coming weeks.
Linklaters has been providing back-up family care through childcare provider Bright Horizons, where possible, in line with government guidelines.
A spokesperson added “We have encouraged our people who are affected by the recent lockdown announcement, from a childcare and/or home schooling perspective, to embrace our approach to agile working by having conversations about flexible and supportive working arrangements where needed.”
Slaughter and May said it is also encouraging staff to speak up on any issues with their partner departmental line managers to help them achieve a balance between their professional and personal lives.
“The firm also has a generous leave policy which allows for additional days to be requested over and above the standard 30 days of holiday”, a spokesperson said.
A Charles Russell Speechly spokesperson echoed this, stating: “In the first lockdown, we allowed as much flexibility as possible in working hours on an individual and team basis and this will be the same this time around.”
A number of top law firms have been ramping up family-friendly policies in recent years, with Allen & Overy upping paternity leave from two to 12 weeks in March 2020.
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