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May 23, 2018

Bernstein Shur introduces 16 weeks of paid parental leave for employees

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
Bernstein Shur has adopted an expanded parental leave policy that provides 16 weeks of paid leave to all new parents among its attorneys and staff members regardless of gender.

About Bernstein Shur

Founded in 1915, Bernstein Shur www.bernsteinshur.com has 110 attorneys and professionals who practice in more than 20 key areas across a variety of industries. The firm is Maine's exclusive member of Lex Mundi, the world's leading association of independent law firms.

Bernstein Shur has adopted an expanded parental leave policy that provides 16 weeks of paid leave to all new parents among its attorneys and staff members regardless of gender.

The policy, which took effect on May 21, removes any distinction between "primary" and "secondary" caregivers and provides equal benefits to all new parents as a result of birth, adoption or foster care placement. It also provides all new parents with a great deal of flexibility as to how to use their paid leave time, and the policy benefits are immediately available when a new employee joins the firm.

"It is a particularly challenging time for attorneys when they become new parents and are first learning to balance the new demands at home with a challenging professional career," said Joan Fortin, a Bernstein Shur shareholder, director of attorney recruiting and member of the firm's board of directors. "Our firm is always looking for better ways to support our attorneys through this part of their careers so we retain talented people and help them avoid the need to make a choice between family and career. Lower attrition is better for our clients, our people and our bottom line."

Bernstein Shur's board of directors unanimously adopted the policy after soliciting substantial feedback from all associates and other interested stakeholders.

Here's what's in the expanded policy

As a result of the expanded policy, the firm's new parents will now have the option to take their leave (a total of 80 business days) any way they choose, as long as it is taken in the first year after becoming a new parent. For example, a new parent could be out of the office entirely for eight weeks, and then return and take the remaining 40 business days of paid leave by working a three-day work week and getting two paid days off for 20 additional weeks.

New parents will retain the ability to take up to an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

"We believe this policy puts our firm in a leadership position on parental leave and we are proud to take this step forward in support of our new parents," said CEO Pat Scully. "This allows them to focus on the early stages of parenting and to more gracefully and purposefully integrate the demands of work and home."

Fortin added, "This policy intentionally moves away from gender role stereotypes, which presume the mother will be the primary caregiver. We are supporting all our attorneys and staff with new families — not just women who become new moms."

"Transitioning back to work after having a child is a pinch point," said Kevan Lee Deckelmann, shareholder and member of the firm's board of directors. "We want our policies to convey our understanding of how difficult this transition can be. We strongly believe that getting this policy right benefits everyone by allowing them to organize their time the best way possible for their individual families. It decreases burnout and increases loyalty to the firm."

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