Sunday, May 10, 2015

In a real workplace, paid family leave plays out in different ways

There’s a back-story to the paid family leave debate, even among progressive companies that offer it.
Childless workers claim that their coworkers or bosses don’t think their lives are as “important”. Sometimes they wind up working overtime, which often goes unpaid in a salaried environment, to cover work for those who took off time for children.  This started becoming a problem for me in the 1990s;  in the 80s, everyone had been absolutely responsible for his or her own work.  On the other hand, I got a bigger raise than I would have for the emergency on-calls for others.
The problem got started written about in the 1990s.  On a pre-move trip to Minneapolis in 1997, I remember seeing a Wall Street Journal article by a childless woman working for a law firm.
Generally, in my own career, most parents got good at working from home and got their jobs done.  
The problem bifurcates.  Defenders of mandatory paid family leave point out that it’s a necessary counter to adjusting to equality by gender in the workplace, from a time when women stayed in the home. That debate doesn’t consider childlessness. It’s also true that the fairness problems seem to affect women more than men, in general. 
It’s also true that some women lose traction in their careers when they have kids.  On the other hand, married men with kids tend to advance more quickly than singles, because they have more incentive to behave competitively, although there are spectacular exceptions, especially in tech and entertainment.

Also, more childless people now get involved with eldercare, given an aging population with fewer kids.

There is a problem in logic if an employer has to reassign work to someone else other than the person paid to do it.  The other person might not be paid at all (in a salaried environment) or the employer might have to spend more.  A childless person could "lowball" those with families and be more likely to survive a downsizing or layoff later. 
Here are a few more references:  “Careerists”,  “City-data”, and especially Forbes

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