Model Policy: Flexible Work Arrangements

Date: September, 1992; updated June 2006
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Copyright © 2006 The Law Society of British Columbia

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Preface1

The Law Society of BC recognizes that individuals committed to the practice of law may, for reasons including work-life balance, family responsibility, or other interests, prefer flexible work arrangements which restructure or reduce the time devoted to work or which allow the individual to work from locations other than the office of the firm. This model policy on flexible work arrangements is made available to encourage and support lawyers of BC to develop best practices that increase productivity and enhance a law firm’s ability to recruit and retain lawyers with diverse perspectives.

Flexible work arrangements take many forms. Advances in both telecommunications and computerization technology, make it feasible for many lawyers to practice from locations other than the law firm’s offices. Law firms are implementing full-time, flex-time arrangements and various types of reduced-hour schedules, including job sharing.

This Model Policy recognizes that different firms will have different goals and may choose different approaches to promote flexible work arrangements. Therefore, some firms may choose to implement a detailed policy while others may adopt broad statements of commitment and purpose (as is set out at the beginning of the Model Policy) and deal with individual requests on a case-by-case basis.

This Model Policy addresses flexible work arrangements generally. The Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Model Policy contains specific provisions for returning to work after the birth or adoption of a child.

This policy has drawn upon a number of policies and publications including: the publication of the Commission on Women in the Profession of the American Bar Association and published in Lawyers and Balanced Lives: A Guide to Drafting and Implementing Workplace Policies for Lawyers (First edition 1990: ABA, Chicago) and Lawyers and Balanced Lives by the ABA Commission.2


Model Policy

1. Statement of commitment

[Name of firm] recognizes that individuals committed to the practice of law may for reasons including work-life balance, family responsibility, or other interests prefer flexible work arrangements which restructure or reduce the time devoted to work or which allow the individual to work from locations other than the office of the firm. The firm believes that lawyers can and will remain committed professionals while working in a flexible work arrangement, and that such arrangements should not affect lawyers’ opportunities for professional growth, experience, and career advancement.

2. Purpose

The firm’s primary purpose in providing flexible work arrangements is to attract and retain lawyers whom we value while promoting and supporting excellence in the practice of law by including lawyers who choose flexible work arrangements. Therefore, the firm will make every effort to accommodate reasonable requests for flexible work arrangements from lawyers be they associates or partners.

Lawyers will respect the availability of the flexible arrangement lawyer. It is equally important that the flexible arrangement lawyer be willing to accommodate, when required, work on an irregular schedule, work involving travel, and occasionally work in highly concentrated periods of time. Progress toward partnership, increasing responsibility in the firm and continued inclusion in the partnership may depend on the ability of the flexible arrangement lawyer to demonstrate a reasonable amount of accommodation in regard to unforeseeable needs of the firm in light of the specific work arrangements.

3. Definition

“Flexible arrangement lawyer” means a lawyer who has negotiated a flexible work arrangement with the firm.

4. Eligibility and duration

Partners and associates are eligible to use this policy. [Associates must have been employed by the firm for ____________ before becoming eligible for an flexible work arrangement.]

In considering proposals, the firm will be guided not only by the lawyer making the request, but also by the overall size of the firm and needs of its clients. There is no predetermined limit to the number of lawyers who will be permitted to work under a flexible arrangement at the same time, nor is there a predetermined minimum or maximum period which a lawyer may spend on flexible arrangement status.

Approval and termination of a flexible arrangement is at the sole discretion of the firm.

The firm, when terminating any flexible work arrangement will give sufficient notice to the flexible arrangement lawyer to enable that lawyer to make appropriate alternative arrangements.

5. Flexible work arrangements

5.1 Types of arrangements

Flexible work arrangements that may be considered by the firm include the following:

Full-time arrangements:

Flex-time — Flex-time is a rearrangement but not a reduction of office hours. It includes compressed time in which a lawyer handles a full workload in fewer, longer workdays, instead of a normal work day. The lawyer remains responsible for a full workload and is entitled to full compensation.

Flex-place — Flex-place is an arrangement under which the employer agrees that some or all of the lawyer’s responsibilities may be handled at home or some other agreed-upon location. The lawyer remains responsible for a full workload and is entitled to full compensation.

Reduced hour arrangements:

Reduced work schedule — A reduced work schedule is a work arrangement in which the lawyer works reduced hours. The arrangement may be structured in any number of ways, including specifying a reduced number of hours, days in a week, weeks in a month, or months in a year that a lawyer will work, or specifying the size of the lawyer’s case-load.

Job sharing — Job sharing is an arrangement in which two or more lawyers share a position and are paid proportionately for their share of the work.

5.2 Parameters

There is wide latitude in designing a flexible arrangement, which may include any of the above, providing the lawyer agrees

(a) to maintain fairly regular or predictable core office hours or core hours of work and to communicate these days/ hours and any changes to his or her colleagues;

(b) to remain in contact with his or her assistant or to be reachable on a reasonable basis during off hours in case of an emergency;

(c) to remain reasonably willing to accommodate unusual work demands; and

(d) to agree to strive for continuous improvement and to participate in non-billable professional and business development activities of the firm.

The firm will expect a lawyer with flexible work arrangements to be available outside the flexible arrangement only when reasonably necessary.

6. Associates’ compensation and benefits

6.1 Salary

The flexible arrangement lawyer will be paid a salary that is calculated on a pro-rated basis.

The flexible arrangement lawyer’s basic salary may be adjusted to reflect the result of a careful analysis of the increase or reduction of overhead costs resulting from the flexible work arrangement.

6.2 Benefits

Where possible, the firm will continue to provide an adjusted benefits package while the flexible work arrangement is in effect. It is the responsibility of the flexible arrangement lawyer to determine his or her eligibility for benefits when working reduced hours.

The flexible arrangement lawyer’s expense allowance will be adjusted as necessary.

7. Partners’ compensation and benefits

7.1 Partnership compensation

Equity and Non-Equity Partners are equally eligible to use this policy.

Partnership compensation for flexible arrangement partners will be determined in the same manner as for other partners, taking into consideration the same factors that apply to other partners and making reasonable adjustments to reflect the flexible work arrangement.

7.2 Benefits

Where possible, the firm will continue to provide an adjusted benefits package while the flexible arrangement is in effect. It is the responsibility of the flexible arrangement partner to determine his/her eligibility for benefits when working reduced hours.

8. Career advancement and eligibility of associates for partnership

The firm has a keen interest in the long-term career development of all lawyers. Therefore, to the extent reasonably possible, there should be no difference in the quality of work given to flexible arrangement lawyers and no difference in the firm’s attitude toward their professional development.

The firm will make available to the flexible arrangement lawyer opportunities for professional enrichment and advancement and the flexible arrangement lawyer will recognize that such opportunities may, at times, interfere with the flexible work arrangement.

The fact of participation in a flexible work arrangement will not, in itself, influence the decision of whether or not the associate is to be admitted to partnership.

Timing of consideration for partnership shall be determined through the evaluation process on a case-by-case basis. All Associates, whether full-time or flexible arrangement, must possess the attributes of a Partner.

Admission to partnership will be determined through the normal process.

9. Requests for flexible arrangement status

When necessary, the firm may appoint a partner as an advisor to work with lawyers seeking to be approved for, or who wish to remain on, a flexible work arrangement. The advisor’s role may include developing suggestions for ways in which overhead expenses can be reduced, if appropriate, and sharing those suggestions with lawyers seeking approval or renewal of a flexible work arrangement. The advisor may also assist lawyers seeking approval or renewal of such arrangements in preparing their requests, and may, together with [the designated authority in the firm, usually the managing partner or the department head], ask other lawyers to cooperate and participate in making the flexible work arrangement program successful.

All requests for changes in work arrangements (whether onto, or off of a flexible arrangement) should be submitted in writing to [the designated authority in the firm, usually the managing partner or the department head]. Requests should be made as far in advance as is reasonably possible and should state the anticipated billable and non-billable hours, the office schedule the lawyer expects to maintain while on a flexible work arrangement, the duration of the arrangement, and a possible compensation proposal.

When a lawyer chooses to return to a standard work arrangement, the firm will make every reasonable effort to accommodate this transition.

10. Review of flexible work arrangement and performance

The performance of a flexible arrangement lawyer will be assessed on the same basis as is used for full-time lawyers.

In addition, there will be a periodic review of the flexible work arrangement to evaluate whether the flexible arrangement is working for both the firm and the lawyer and to assess the impact on clients’ needs. If as part of the review, it is determined that the hours worked by that lawyer are substantially in excess of or below the agreed-upon percentage, or if the flexible arrangement lawyer’s professional development is being materially impeded, the review will include a discussion of hours, compensation or other adjustments required to address these concerns.

11. Period of review

The firm will review this policy bi-annually. All lawyers at the firm are invited to contribute to the review. Inquiries regarding flexible work arrangements can be directed to [the designated authority in the firm, usually the managing partner or the department head].

_______________________


Endnotes:

1. This policy does not contemplate the duty to accommodate for reasons of disability. Please see the Model Policy titled “Accommodation for Persons with Disabilities.”

2. See also: Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia’s Guidelines on Family and Medical Leave and Alternative Work Arrangements and Flexible Working Arrangements published by the Ontario Women’s Directorate and Camco Inc.