Magazine article Management Today

Wanting It All

Magazine article Management Today

Wanting It All

Article excerpt

If one believes the press, new battle lines at work are being drawn up. Not between employer and employee, men and women, but between parents and the child-free. People without children are losing out on all fronts: not only do they not qualify for special childcare allowances and leave, but they must also cover for those shirkers -- parents -- who rush into work late because the nanny was sick or leave early to go to a school play.

As in all of life, it is our daily experiences that get to us. Whereas most people do not complain that statutory parental leave, for example, is funded out of general taxation, they might have an issue with having to pickup the slack from the person sitting next to them who's just gone part-time. Much of this will be just noise: some people are simply more diligent than others, and for the less conscientious, children can provide a wonderful excuse. For every parent who is cutting corners there will be another working evenings to ensure the job gets done.

But real tensions exist. Adam, for example, child-free himself, runs a small business with a partner who is a working mother. Their recent conversation about whether Adam should sacrifice his holiday to prepare a vital sales pitch was somewhat galling, particularly as they have had this conversation for several years in a row. His business partner's holidays are based around the children's school holidays and so have always been sacrosanct.

Yet as family-friendly policies morph into more general work/life balance ones, flexible working is as much win-win as it is win-lose for parents v the child-free. The opening up of career opportunities to women has generated a cultural shift towards it being desirable for everyone to have more balance in their lives, with less blind acceptance of a career-based definition of success driven by workaholism.

Opportunities now exist for people to work a shorter week in order to pursue a hobby, they are passionate about. I for one would be delighted if more people did this; in a world where anyone might choose to place more emphasis on an outside interest and less on their job, it would make less sense for employers to discriminate against women of childbearing age because they fear they might take time out.

Perhaps even more importantly, arguments claiming that the child-free are discriminated against seem to me to be based on the fallacy that having children is simply an individual, lifestyle choice. …

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