AL: News

Women in IP – Flexible working and career breaks

Tuesday 18 December 2018

On the 22nd November 2018, the Women in IP group, a part of the IP Inclusive initiative, held its third annual panel discussion.

IP Inclusive is a pan-professional diversity task force that was established in 2015 by an association of organisations within the IP profession, including CIPA, CITMA and the IP Federation. IP Inclusive works with its members to promote equality, diversity and inclusion within the IP profession. There are three support and networking groups within IP inclusive: IP Out, Women in IP and IP & Me. These groups organise regular events ranging from networking evenings to webinars. Appleyard Lees are very proud to be a signatory to the IP Inclusive Charter and to support the initiative.

This year’s Women in IP meeting was dedicated to an exploration of the concept of flexible working and was hosted at Gowling WLG, London. The event was over subscribed and more than 100 people from various backgrounds within the IP profession were in attendance. The discussions raised thought-provoking points of view and there were also some very practical tips on how to go about requesting flexible working.

After a short introduction by the co-chairs of Women in IP, Barbara Fleck (Partner at Appleyard Lees) and Joanna Conway (Of Counsel, Norton Rose Fulbright), chair Alexandra Brodie (Partner at Gowling WLG) introduced the panel. From an employment lawyer to a keen traveler, each member of the panel was able to bring their own unique insight into working flexibly. The panel included HHJ Melissa Clark (Senior Circuit Judge), Vicki McKinney (Senior Patent Attorney, Shell International LTD), Heather Lane (Partner, GJE), Anna Fletcher (Director, Gowling WLG) and Ben Hoyle (Director, Hoyle IP).

Flexible working challenges the traditional working day (i.e. 9-5, Monday to Friday) and allows employees to adopt a working lifestyle that can benefit both the employee and employer. It was clear from the discussions that various different models for flexible working exist, such as compressed hours, working part-time, flexi-time (allowing an employee to choose their own working hours within agreed ‘core hours’) and working from home. Also, the reasons for seeking out a flexible working style are diverse and can include family commitments or taking up a new hobby.

Various points to consider when making a flexible working request were extensively discussed by the panel. These included treating the request for flexible working like a business proposition and thinking about the impact it could have on your team and your work. It was noted that this is of course particularly important in small teams. Panel members also discussed that a compromise between the employer and employee may sometimes be needed to arrive at a successful flexible working arrangement. In any case, when requesting flexible working, good communication with the employer is key.

There were a lot of questions from the audience, highlighting the growing interest and relevance of this topic. One of the conclusions drawn from the discussion was that communication is one of the most important factors in making flexible working a success for both the employee and employer. Attendees were also encouraged to share their experiences more widely. It was also noted that working flexibly should not have a negative impact on career prospects, as flexible working and ambition should certainly not be viewed as mutually exclusive.

To keep up to date with the latest news from the Women in IP network follow @WomeninIPI. The next date for your diary is a first-of-a-kind joint event hosted by the three support groups of IP Inclusive – IP & Me, IP Out, and Women in IP. The event on Thursday 17th January at Norton Rose Fulbright, London, will explore how we can all be allies, advocates, and supporters for each other. Barbara Fleck, Julia Gwilt, Meg Booth, David Clark and Martyna Polenska from Appleyard Lees will attend this event.

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