'Stop asking me if I want to have kids!'

Female employees are sick of being asked about their 'family plans'

'Stop asking me if I want to have kids!'

While friendships in the workplace can often transition into our outside lives, there’s one overly personal question that’s infuriating female employees.

“So, do you want kids?”

A recent report from global pharmacy Superdrug found that almost half of female employees are fed up with being asked about their family plans – with those aged 25 to 29 being the most annoyed by it. 

After interviewing over 1,000 participants, the research found that 33% of staff had been asked about having children by a co-worker, however just 17% were comfortable with them asking in the first place.

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What’s more, women were two times more likely than their male counterparts to be asked about having children by a colleague.  

Overall, 91% of women said they want a change in the way people ask them about future child-having plans. But what exactly should that change look like?

The debate around what is and what is not appropriate workplace conversations is a divisive one. After all, it’s sometimes difficult to find the balance between being friendly and making someone very uncomfortable.

As an HR professional, asking your own employees if they plan to have children could land you in some very hot water.

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“It’s not illegal just to ask the question - however, it is a very risky question to ask,” explained Stephen Wolpert, partner at Toronto-based law firm Whitten & Lublin.

“I would strongly recommend against asking it in the first place. The problem is, it could quickly lead to perceptions of discrimination in the workplace - in particular that younger employees are being denied promotions because of their plans to have children.

“Of course, if the company does make decisions based on employees’ plans to have a family (or their plan not to), that would be discriminatory and that would certainly be illegal.”

Wolpert explained that in certain cases, employers may try to justify asking about children in order to cover staffing plans – but that’s not really a viable excuse.

“That’s unlikely to be particularly helpful information; even if someone is planning to have children, that says nothing about when they plan to have them, whether they will actually have them, or what periods of time – if any – they may choose to take a leave of absence,” Wolpert told us.

 “So, with little value from a planning perspective and with significant risk that it would be discriminatory, it’s hard to see a situation in which a company should ask that question.”

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