Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In 'family friendly' workplaces, singles feel overlooked

Christian Science Monitor Article
When Jerry Steinberg first started working as a teacher in Sioux Lookout, Ont., he noticed that almost all of his colleagues who attended after-hours meetings were either childless or had grown kids.
"I thought, 'Wow, all my colleagues who have children are home now, and they're getting paid as much as we are,' " Mr. Steinberg says. "All they have to do is say 'My kid ...' and all is excused."

According to a 2003 study by the University of Tulsa, Steinberg isn't the only person to notice the disparity. More than half of America's childless singles feel put-upon - whether it be because of fewer benefits, longer hours, mandatory overtime, or less flexible vacation - by their married and child-rearing co-workers. As part of his own remedy, Steinberg started an international social club for childless couples and singles called NO KIDDING!, where Steinberg holds the eminent office of "Founding Non-Father."
. . .
The problem for employers, say management analysts, is that while leaning on single staffers for emergencies and immediate assistance may be efficient in the short-term, alienating workers is never a cost-efficient strategy for the longterm.

"All the employer has to do to handle adults without children," says Joan Williams, a law professor and director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California's Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, "is to set up workplace structures that take into account that adults will have to leave. They will have to leave increasingly for elder-care crises, for child-care issues, and for ill spouses." If the employer "makes believe" that single or childless employees have no obligations outside the office, and relies on them always to pick up the slack, that can end up taxing the entire company, he says.
. . .
What's more, single adults make up a whopping 40 percent of the full-time American workforce, according to a recent study by the American Association of Single People.

Some management plans already account for the needs of single workers. For example, some workplace managers appoint a rotating worker as a "floater" to fill in for workers called away for personal emergencies, rather than have the same workers stay late.
. . .
But to say that single and childless people are universally outraged or even dissatisfied is an overstatement. Many of the single and childless people interviewed emphasized their "pro-family" stance, stressing a desire for equity - rather than better treatment.

This article oddly seems to conflate the childless with the single . . . but considering the source, perhaps it can be overlooked in favor of the overall rather balanced nature of the article.

I suppose that many married childfree workers get perks their unmarried counterparts don't - such as subsidized spousal healthcare. However, I have not heard many stories of them getting cut extra slack in terms of hours, etc. I'd be interested to hear if childfree marrieds' outside commitments are more readily honored.

It mentions the 'cafeteria plan' alternative some employers are using to make sure all workers get equally valuable benefits. I do love that idea, because we can claim rights for fairness without appearing to be childhaters by advocating the end of maternity leave, daycare, etc. It is interesting that so few Americans have a problem with different levels of benefits that are the norm here. They amount to different levels of compensation for the same (or even less) work.

Where's a good red scare when you need it?

Besides, if we're going to implement a scheme compensating workers according to their need instead of their work, there are a lot more factors to consider tan just whether one has children. If the idea was carried to its natural extension, one would have to look at familial background, bills related to ailing parents, those who have higher mortgages because they live in more expensive neighborhoods, and whether ones spouse is a gambling addict.

If you're going to implement a socialist regime, you need to go whole hog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*snort* welcome to my hell I call work. I'm the single woman picking up the slack.