The race to attract and retain the best staff in booming sectors such as finance has led some employers to think beyond salaries and address wider working conditions, as well as the often thorny issue of maintaining a work-life balance. A raft of new employment policies announced this week by Grant Thornton are an exemplar of this new approach among many professional firms.
Grant Thornton, which employs 2,000 staff, recently produced research showing that just one in five Irish businesses have women in senior management roles. It has been shown many times that women in the workforce juggle a greater burden of responsibilities in the home than their male colleagues.
Grant Thornton has now moved to make its own working environment more compatible with family life, which may help it to hang on to more of its female staff, in particular, while also benefiting many of its male workers.
The firm has abolished the service requirement for fully paid maternity leave, which means women working there will be entitled to this benefit from the beginning of their employment. It will also apply to adoptive and paternity leave, while the firm is also developing a similar surrogacy leave policy.
It is also offering five days’ paid leave to staff undergoing fertility treatment. Women working at Grant Thornton who experience a miscarriage, or members of staff whose partner has suffered the loss of a pregnancy, will also be entitled to 20 days’ paid compassionate leave.
Accounting firms traditionally have been perceived as conservative employers. That such progressive employment policies are becoming the norm in the sector illustrates how the work landscape is changing.
Grant Thornton says it has listened to staff who told it “family leave options are important to them”. With salaries for new employees in finance up by a fifth recently, according to research from recruitment consultants, there may be a limit to how much more firms can pay. Employers need other ways to attract staff.
Making roles more attractive, with family-oriented policies, ultimately may end up benefitting the firm as well as its staff.