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Shared Parental Leave in practice – more than just a policy

Real life experience of Shared Parental Leave in a law firm

In April 2015 Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced to UK workplaces allowing parents to share the childcare following the birth or adoption of a child. Walker Morris launched its SPL policy as one of a series of ‘family friendly’ measures aimed at offering greater flexibility to its employees.

Two years on and what has the experience been like in practice? Oliver Duke, a Senior Associate in Walker Morris’ busy Corporate Department took 3 months shared parental leave when his son was 9 months old.  It allowed his wife, who is also a lawyer, to return to work whilst providing a full year of childcare between them and enabling Oliver to share some precious time with their son.

“I found the whole experience extremely positive” commented Oliver. “I must admit that, at first, I was nervous about how my request for leave would be received. However, following the initial discussions I found that my team and the wider firm were extremely positive and supportive about me taking shared parental leave.

“Taking the leave was a great opportunity for me to spend some time with my son and it also helped my wife focus on returning to her career without worrying about childcare. Both my wife and I work full time as solicitors and being able to take shared leave allowed us to support each other by maintaining shared parental responsibilities while continuing with our busy careers. “

“Equality is about more than having a policy” explained John Hamer, Head of the Corporate Department at Walker Morris. “It’s about really engaging with our people and having an honest discussion about how we can support them in their careers.”

“Our SPL policy is one of a series of measures as part of our commitment to develop working practices and policies that support flexible lifestyles. Whilst SPL is still very new and the early adopters are often regarded as pioneers of the policy, it recognises that there is a cultural shift in attitudes to childcare.  By demonstrating a commitment to equality amongst our staff and adopting policies that allow families greater flexibility we feel our staff will be more fulfilled in their careers and ultimately that’s a great result for our people, our clients and the business as a whole.”

Earlier this year Walker Morris announced it was introducing agile working for its lawyers as part of its vision to develop its working practices to support flexible lifestyles.

Oliver Duke