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Human Resources: Share the load

Every Issue

Cite as: (2008) 82(6) LIJ, p. 91

Job-sharing is an innovative way of retaining quality staff.

While a high proportion of female lawyers in Australia drop out of the profession at child bearing age to pursue more flexible careers, anecdotal evidence suggests that many would love to continue working, but with reduced hours.

A clever way to find and retain both female and male lawyers is to offer job-share arrangements – where two or more people share one full-time job.

The benefits

Double the knowledge, skills, ideas and abilities

Two can achieve a lot more than one. Job-sharers will talk things over before making rash decisions, pick up on each other’s mistakes and help each other to problem solve.

Tap into the part-time candidate pool

Part-time roles are difficult to find and many strong candidates who need part-time work to achieve a work/life balance will accept a job that they may be more than qualified for, or for a less than ideal salary for the trade-off of part-time work.

Better balanced staff

Your staff will have a healthy work/life balance and therefore be less likely to suffer from stress and or burnout. They are likely to be happier and therefore perform at a higher level.

Loyal, hard working staff

Your staff will be grateful for the flexibility and this translates into loyalty and hard work. Part-time lawyers also work smarter and more efficiently because they have to get the work done in limited time.

Attract quality staff

In today’s critical skill shortage market, being a flexible, family-friendly workplace will give you a great reputation as an employer of choice.

Retain quality staff

Existing, trained staff members may consider leaving because they can no longer commit to the hours required. You may be able to retain these people by offering them job-share arrangements.

Better leave coverage

Job-sharers are likely to be able to cover for each other when one is on leave, whether it be one picking up an extra day when the other is sick, or covering each other for more extended periods of annual or even long-service leave.

Tips

  • Ensure the two employees have similar values and working styles.
  • Ensure they have similar levels of experience and skills.
  • Set goals and objective performance measures, and review their performance separately.
  • Create an open and supportive culture so any issues they may have can be easily resolved.
  • Ensure transparency with your clients – that they are aware of the arrangement and know that although it may not always be the same person, someone will always be there working on their case and be able to answer their questions.
  • Communication. Set it up so that all possible lines of communication are open to job-sharing employees. Job-sharers should have access to each other’s email, should be copied in on each other’s emails and should have a shared calendar or diary. They should use the same filing system, keep up to date with their filing and have file notes typed and put on file immediately, and they should keep a record of tasks completed and tasks to be addressed on every file.
  • Job-sharers should be available and happy to take calls on their mobile phones when not in the office.
  • Accept from the start that job-sharing employees might have to spend a little time each morning catching up on what happened the day before, and what has and has not been taken care of.
  • Teamwork is critical. No practitioner should be the only one relied on to serve a particular client.
  • A good assistant or secretary is a great help.

Options

  • Depending on the nature of the role, job-share arrangements can be set up in different ways. These include:
  • Split responsibilities – works if the responsibilities of the job do not need to carry across and be dealt with every day.
  • Share all responsibilities – no division of duties or responsibilities. The two employees are interchangeable and pick up each day where the other left off. This requires a lot of communication between job-sharers.
  • Unrelated responsibilities – where two employees work independently on their own files. They simply share the firm’s resources such as office, equipment and support staff.

If you are a job-sharer or part-time lawyer wanting more information, support or resources, join the LIV Part-Time Lawyers Network.

This Network was established to bring together, support and promote the growing number of lawyers who are opting for flexible work arrangements. For more information, contact LIV Advocacy & Practice solicitor Elizabeth Hayes at ehayes@liv.asn.au.

KELLY DERMER is the LIV’s Human Resources coordinator. For further information on this column and other HR issues ph 9607 9548 or visit http://www.liv.asn.au/members/hr.

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