Flexibility and programs aimed at easing the burden on working parents, such as longer parental leave periods, earned all of the Big Four accounting firms spots on Working Mother Magazine's 2004 "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers."

"A full range of flexible scheduling options, a generous paid parental leave policy and highly attended programs designed to train and advance women" earned PricewaterhouseCoopers the distinction of being the only Big Four firm to make the list's Top 10. WM noted that last year, PwC shut down from Dec. 24 to Jan. 5, signaling to its employees "that it's serious about work/life balance." WM also noted that the firm provides key benefits including flexible work arrangements, sick-child care and back-up care, and a program that cuts out-of-town business trips to three days and lets employees work from home upon their return.

Deloitte was recognized for its revamped mentoring program, upgraded dependent-care benefits, "top-notch" basic benefits and back-up child care.

Ernst & Young got the nod for its supplemental time off program, which allows employees in several segments of the firm's tax practice to take up to 14 weeks of leave with partial pay from mid-October to mid-January and receive full health benefits; its broad range of flex options; and its Saturday child care services for employees who have to work during the weekend.

KPMG was recognized for its work/life benefits, which include adoption and in vitro fertilization benefits, medical coverage for domestic partners, and back-up child care (including Saturdays). WM noted that 7,500 of its 18,000-plus professionals have a flexible work arrangement, from job-shares to compressed workweeks.

Consultancy Accenture also made the list. WM noted the firm for its flexibility, including a telecommuting option; the "Full Weekends at Home" schedule, which lets consultants travel on Monday and return home on Friday; and the company's advancement programs for women, who account for 41 percent of the firm's 22,000 employees.

The complete list appears in the October issue of Working Mother, which says that it considers all areas of work/life, including a company's culture, family-friendly policies and compensation, in compiling the list.

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