Dentons enhances parental leave policy to promote inclusivity and as a recruiting and retention tool

Leave will provide 26-week top-up and apply to eligible staff of all genders, and adoptive parents

Dentons enhances parental leave policy to promote inclusivity and as a recruiting and retention tool
Dentons Canada has developed a new, enhanced parental leave policy that applies to all employees

It may be only one tool in the challenge to recruit and retain talent, but Dentons Canada has decided to enhance its paternal leave policies. Not only is it increasing the number of weeks that the law firm will provide a top-up on pay, but the policy will apply to all employees, all genders, and prospective adoptive parents.

"I was just overjoyed when I heard about it," says Dentons employee Anna Obidzinski. The legal assistant, who was already home with her new son when she learned of the policy," adds that she was delighted because the new policy now applies to her.

"I have to admit, I actually got a bit emotional when I found out about the news," says the mother of two, who was on the previous maternity leave policy with her second child when she learned of the new one.

As part of the new policy, all eligible Dentons employees can receive up to 26 weeks leave with a top-up salary, increasing from 17 weeks. The new firm-wide parental leave policy provides a top-up to 100 per cent during that period. The old policy only applied to those who were lawyers or director-level business service professionals, but now it is far more inclusive.

Tim Haney, CEO of Dentons Canada, says that the firm implemented its new policy following extensive consultation with staff and human resources experts. It also benchmarked its policy against similar law firms and other industries. He says that the new approach achieves three essential goals:

  • Talent attraction and retention: the enhanced policy is competitive with other employers in the legal sector and other organizations. It will serve as a differentiator in a competitive market for exceptional talent.
  • Remove distinctions related to the employee's role within the firm: With this updated policy, we are living up to our commitments to be inclusive to all firm members.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity: it includes non-gestational caregivers (regardless of gender) and adoptive parents.

Tim Haney, Dentons Canada

"We want to attract and retain talent," he says, "but we also want to have people feel that they can build their careers at Dentons, so having industry-leading benefits is beneficial to that goal."

Haney notes that the new policy also aims to remove any potential stigma that employees might feel they could suffer if they take parental leave. Lawyers seeking to make partner may think that taking parental leave could hurt their chances of promotion.

By expanding the policy to all employees and enhancing the benefits, Haney says he hopes it sends the message that taking a leave to look after a new child is not something that will brand you as uncommitted to the job. And the "one-team: approach to having the benefits apply fully to all eligible staff "reduces any sense of distinction between staff- be they lawyers, support staff or other professionals at Dentons." He also points out that one lawyer recently made a partner while she was on parental leave.

Haney also notes that reintegrating a parent who comes back to Dentons after their parental leave requires a "bespoke" approach. Some will feel they need to keep in touch with the office while away, or at least closer to their return date. Others may not, he says. "You want to be mindful of making sure those who come back from leave don't feel they've been left behind."

Canada already has a parental leave benefits policy that allows parents of all genders, and adoptive parents, to receive up to 55 per cent of their wages, with a maximum of $595 a week, for 35 weeks. Under standard benefits, parents can earn up to 55% of their wages to $595 a week for 35 weeks. Those who choose extended benefits can receive 33 per cent of their salary to a maximum of $357 a week for up to 61 weeks.

(While the law varies from province to province, Canadian parents are eligible for up to 63 weeks of time off, and employers must, in most cases, protect their job for up to 18 months.)

Justine Moller, an accolades and events specialist at Dentons, says she was pleasantly surprised about the timing of the new policy. When she heard about it coming into effect, she already knew she was pregnant but hadn't told anyone. "I was very excited, and my teammates were also very happy for me," says Moller, who is expecting her first child, a girl, in May.

The new policy also will make it easier for Moller to take an 18-month leave, spreading out the government and employee benefits. "This new policy has really made it possible to do that comfortably."

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