Simmons & Simmons, Winner 2013, The RBS Best for Flexible Working Award
Simmons & Simmons has two clear objectives as they encourage take up of flexible working: to empower their people to be able to choose a working pattern that meets their needs and provides a good work-life fit; and to facilitate increased flexibility in the firm’s working practices to deliver a high quality service to their clients.
Commitment to flexible working is formal and comes from the highest levels of the firm. Developing greater flexibility is written into the firm’s Business Plan, and a steering committee, comprising of senior people, oversees and addresses flexible working and gender balance across the firm. This committee meets monthly, and reports back to the senior partner on progress. One of the partners on the committee sits on the Board and two other partners have formal flexible working contracts. The composition of the steering group ensures that decisions affecting process and culture change come with backing from the top.
Simmons & Simmons has taken a number of actions all designed to further the spread and take-up of flexible working within the firm. They have consulted with their people to ensure that there is an active employee voice to inform actions and the decision making process. Focus groups have been held for male and female associates in their London office to better understand their views about flexible working and gender balance, and draw out the issues that the company faces as they make improvements. The meetings were chaired by two female partners (one of whom has a formal flexible working arrangement in place) to reinforce the message that flexible working has senior commitment and buy-in.
Following these focus group meetings the Senior Partner hosted a session for the associates to share with them the actions that have been put in place. The firm wants to be held to account to deliver on their commitments, and also ensure that there is transparency and integrity in actions taken.
The firm shares flexible working case-studies of their people on their internal intranet in order to encourage shared best practice and access to information about the types of flexible working patterns that are in place across the firm. The case studies include formal and informal flexible arrangements undertaken by men and women across their international network and reflect the range of reasons for working flexibly from childcare to sports and social commitments.
Simmons & Simmons also advertises flexible working in all external job descriptions and specifications so that prospective new joiners feel encouraged to apply in the knowledge that flexible working is actively encouraged and supported.
The last 12 months have seen good progress in developing this approach and take-up of flexible working practices across the firm. A recent survey indicated that 50% of staff in London work flexibly (either formally or informally, regularly or occasionally).
Commenting on Simmons & Simmons’ ongoing commitment to flexible working, Julian Taylor, partner said ‘Flexible working is good for our business. It helps us to retain and motivate talented individuals, which in turn means we can deliver top quality service to our clients. ‘