Tuesday 19 May 2015 8:24 pm

Zero hours contracts: A godsend for high-flying professionals

The professions are not well-known for the flexibility of their working environments. But with technology allowing employees to work remotely, and staff wanting to juggle family life or keep a work/life balance, many employers are finding that their employees want more innovative solutions. Flexibility can benefit employees, the employer and clients. Advantages can include: a more satisfied work force, retention of top talent, allowing parents to work and look after their children, and giving clients the same quality and consistency but with a more dynamic approach. I’m an experienced employment lawyer with two children, aged six and three, and I work for lewisilkinhouse, a specialist resourcing arm of law firm Lewis Silkin. The firm has a pool of employment lawyers who all work on zero hours contracts. Lawyers are employed by Lewis Silkin but are seconded to clients for specific projects, or when there is a large caseload. We often hear about the downside of zero hours contracts, but for me and my team, they offer us – and our clients – a great deal of flexibility. Being on a zero hours contract has given me the opportunity to work when I want, and to choose when I do not – for example, at those pressure points in life, like moving house or when my children started school. My job offers me a way of operating which benefits my lifestyle and constantly offers me variety. I might be seconded to a bank for maternity cover, or sent to work with an in-house team at a broadcast corporation on a project. By choosing to have breaks between assignments, I can spend quality time with my children, and catch up on jobs which fall to the bottom of the to-do list when working. Flexibility does not mean that all of the benefits sit with the employee either; this way of working also benefits the employer. I have found that I am more focused on work when I am on an assignment. I can also dedicate time to things at home after I complete that assignment, rather than being worried about my home life at work, which could impact my delivery. Increasing numbers of lawyers will want to be able to prioritise their children when they are young, and I believe that if work places do not want to lose some of their best people – staff that they’ve invested a lot of money and time in training – then they need to offer them the opportunity to work flexibly as one solution. Ultimately, this benefits the employer: they are less likely to lose hard-working and loyal people. And reducing attrition, particularly of talented female staff members, can only benefit their business. To remain competitive, law firms and the other professions need to adapt and diversify the way they meet their clients’ demands. If they can do this while, at the same time, offering those of us who want to work in a different way challenging, rewarding careers, then everybody wins.

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