Baker and McKenzie sees benefits of supporting working carers

Employee Benefits Live 2015: Law firm Baker and McKenzie has consolidated its parental policies to enhance its support for working parents.


At the beginning of 2015, the organisation brought together its maternity, paternity, shared parental leave and adoption policies to form its ‘new parent policy’, providing staff with greater flexibility.

The law firm has tailored its benefits approach according to the demographics of its workforce and its business needs, with the aim of creating a competitive and supportive benefits package to recruit and retain top talent.

Speaking at Employee Benefits Live 2015, Debbie Dunkley (pictured), head of reward and employee relations at Baker and McKenzie, explained that the benefits offered by the firm are designed to support all working carers, whether that be staff looking after elderly parents or those with children, for example.

Baker and McKenzie offers employees eight appointments a year with provider My Family Care to address carer challenges, such as emergency childcare, eldercare, or at-home support. These sessions can be directly accessed by staff without the need to go through line managers.

Further support for working carers includes coaching sessions before, during, and after parental leave, ‘tea and talk’ groups for informal discussions about carer responsibilities and challenges, as well as agile and flexible working policies.

The firm also developed ‘Baker Benefits’, provided by Thomsons Online Benefits, which includes carer benefits and additional services that are well-suited to its employee demographic.

To help communicate the benefit schemes available to staff, Baker and McKenzie publishes blogs written by employees discussing why certain benefits are important to them.

Dunkley explained that providing benefits that support working carers has tangible advantages for staff and for the business. Its latest employee survey, which was conducted with Towers Watson, recorded engagement levels of 88%. Almost all (96%) respondents said they were proud to be associated with the firm, 85% said that the benefits offered meet their needs and 89% would recommend the organisation as a good place to work.

The law firm has also seen a 35% increase in benefits take up and a 30% decline in unpaid leave. Its absence rate is down to 1.1% and it has a turnover rate of 11%.

Mary Watt, head of human resources and development at Scottish Water, who also spoke at the session, explained that the organisation had viewed the introduction of shared parental leave as a chance to increase equality of opportunity for both male and female staff.

Scottish Water, which employs staff across the generational spectrum, wanted to gain a greater insight into employees’ caring responsibilities. Through an engagement survey, it found that around 10% of staff have some form of caring responsibility. Feedback also indicated that employees would like the organisation to increase communication around staff benefits related to working carers.

One of the ways in which Scottish Water has addressed the issue is to enhance its agile working policy. This was designed to support all staff and the diverse caring responsibilities they may have, such as children, grandchildren and older relatives.

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The initiative also aims to increase retention and further develop the talent pipeline. In addition to benefits to the business, such as cost savings and reducing the firm’s carbon footprint, agile working has also helped drive loyalty and engagement.

The organisation’s 2015 engagement survey, Your voice, found that 92% of respondents are satisfied with Scottish Water as an employer and 91% are committed to the organisation.