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Single workers ignored in work-life balance equation

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HC Online | 07 Mar 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Wanted: A life outside the workplace. Do your workplace flexibility policies tend to leave single workers out of the equation?
  • Wanda | 07 Mar 2013, 03:42 PM Agree 0
    Well finally! I'm an HR professional in my late 20's with a partner and no kids and am always frustrated that these types of policies are slanted towards parents.

    Having children shouldn't make anyone more entitled than someone who has chosen not to have kids.

    And don't even get me started on Labor's "family this" and "family that" bonuses!!!!!!!! :)
  • Janet | 07 Mar 2013, 04:04 PM Agree 0
    Wanda - every time I hear Julia or a Labor MP talk about 'working families' I think 'what about working single people' (of which there are many, with very few perks).
  • Helen | 07 Mar 2013, 04:15 PM Agree 0
    It's funny - I was just talking to a colleague about this yesterday. Both of us have partners - but no kids. And we are always required to put in a full 8 hour day, while working parents get to run off for this and that all the time. It's discrimination - but oh so very politically incorrect to say it. Thank goodness someone is brave enough to give the issue some airplay. Thanks HCF!
  • Judy Higgins | 07 Mar 2013, 04:21 PM Agree 0
    The policy should be called work/life balance not work/family balance and should also be incorporated to assist singles.
    People with kids do find it more difficult to find that balance due to the extra responsibilities and the extra work involved e.g. sick kids, washing, feeding them, etc and that can't be disputed. I get sick to death of people with no kids whinging and whining about people with kids and the so called extra's they get. Amazing how they change their minds when they have the kids.
  • kevin | 07 Mar 2013, 04:24 PM Agree 0
    One in three households is a single person household. Hardly a minority but as others have said, don't get me started on labors "working families"
  • Catherine | 07 Mar 2013, 04:54 PM Agree 0
    As one of these people who used to have to 'run off for this and for that ALL the time' I find some of these comments quite offensive. I have adult children now but moved to caring for elderly parents so now find myself having to 'run off for this and for that' to take them to medical appointments, caring for them when they become ill etc. Perhaps my fellow HR professionals should consider themselvs fortunate that their parents haven't reached the age where they need care. Maybe then they will have an appreciation on what sort of pressures those of us with caring responsibilities have to go through.
  • Paula | 07 Mar 2013, 05:57 PM Agree 0
    Loved Janet's comment on what our politicans constantly comment about working families.
    I think we are going to see more and more single workers choosing to have children later on in life. Why shouldn't they be able to apply for flexible hours too.
    I would honestly love to work flexible work hours to have more balance in my life outside work.
  • Joe | 07 Mar 2013, 07:22 PM Agree 0
    Can I ask, what disadvantage do you get by not having kids? All the entitlements provided to parents are not "rewards" but are strategies to help manage the difficulty in balancing work and family. Unfortunately you do not have the choice of letting your 2 year old sit at home by themselves while you work.

    Equity does not mean treating people equal, it's about treating people appropriate to their circumstances.

    From a political perspective, family structures & sizes are changing rapidly and you only have to look towards European countries with rapidly declining birth rates and declining economies. The sacrifice families make which benefit all, need to be encouraged. Once again, this is not a 'reward' for having a family, quite the opposite - it's assisting those to balance the roles.

    I'll give you a tip - people who have kids to be rich or get perks are sadly misguided!
  • Glenn Martin | 08 Mar 2013, 06:05 AM Agree 0
    I agree that that HR policies should not be restricted to consideration of parents' (ie "family") needs. The point is that everyone needs to have a life outside of work, and good employers recognise this and respect this. But I would also want to say that the discussion needs to look beyond "me tooism". Yes, politicians flog the rhetoric about families, but I think it's also true that families are the cradle of the sustainability of societies. It makes sense for governments and employers to support them, espcially in a worled where two incomes seem to be necessary to finance them.
  • Anna | 08 Mar 2013, 08:46 AM Agree 0
    I agree that work life balance is required for everyone. But the perception that parents are always 'running off' to chase kids and getting paid for it is sadly misguided. If I need to leave outside my normal work hours I am required to take this time off and not get paid or I am required to work extra of an evening/weekend to make this time up.

    Although other workers may see me leave and arrive at abnormal times, they often do not see my stay late or work weekends. No parent expects a free ride from their employer.

    I know I offer the same to my single staff who require time off at take pets to the vet, look after partners or parents etc. Its certainly about life not just kids.
  • MM | 08 Mar 2013, 10:38 AM Agree 0
    I understand that having children is a general benefit to our country and communtiy - and without kids then we'll all be up the proverbial without a paddle.

    Who is going to care for me when I'm old if not someone else's child?

    But having kids is also a lifestyle choice not a legal requirement, so from a day to day work perspective, people with children shouldn't get more benefits than people without them.

    Even when talking "gender equality" - there are those of the same gender who get treated differently than others (mother's get a lot more paid or other time off with pay with the company's and government's blessing than women without children).

    And those of us without children - who don't get the benefit of less time off, still get lumped into the 'glass ceiling' effect - because "women" generally have more time off, have more caring responsibilities etc etc - those of us without children don't get the promotions and places on boards we should even because we're "women"

    Ultimately we lose both ways - we don't get the paid time off because we don't have kids and we don't get the promotions because we're women.

  • Not so old | 08 Mar 2013, 02:46 PM Agree 0
    The work\life policies should be available to all regardless of family responsibilities, gender, age etc. Some of us have done the raising kids bit and now are "kidless" at home but the policies are still geared towards supporting families. Loved to have seen how some would've balanced it when they didn't get all the pampering to try and keep them in the workplace.
  • Cate | 08 Mar 2013, 03:01 PM Agree 0
    These comments are interesting. As an HR professional the bottom line for me is that everyone should be treated fairly and equitably in the workplace. And this means fairness and equity when considering work-life opportunities as well. Gender, marital status and home circumstances are IMO irrelevant to the granting of work-life opportunities. Leave and work-life balance opportunities should be around immediate personal responsibilities regardless of whether its personal, family or community responsibility ( we all have them!). And as long as the employers needs are fairly met by everyone.
    The societal benefit of having children, while important, is not relevant IMO to a discussion on work-life balance. Parents did not wake up one morning and say I'm going to have a societal benefit by having children - IMO it was personal satisfaction decision - a choice. The same as I am childless (not by choice BTW) but I choose to have dogs as my companions and 'family' who require my care and attention. These are personal choices IMO and each are valid and valuable.

    So where does that leave us? As another poster said, employees with children do not have a monopoly on the need for work-life balance nore should they have preference. To me it means that many choices can be respected and usually accomodated under the banner of 'work-life' balance - it means my companion animals at the vet are as important to me as your children to the doctor is to you and as my colleagues fitness programme is to him. Just because they are called 'school holidays' it doesn't mean that parents have a monopoly on those times of the year for leave. And we all deserve to have access to work-life balance arrangements equally and fairly as long as the employers needs are met.
  • AL | 08 Mar 2013, 03:37 PM Agree 0
    Definitely work/life balance should be the term. Good comments. Unfortunately there are employees who abuse their parental status. As there are employers who still only see family responsibilities above those staff who don't have children but still have a life too.
  • Kay | 08 Mar 2013, 03:38 PM Agree 0
    Work/life balance policies ARE available to you all! I'm pretty sure that if you are a hard working, responsible person and had something important to do during work hours and you ASKED NICELY if you could have time off, paid, unpaid, time in lieu, whatever, your manager would grant it to you. It's about priorities.
  • serious? | 11 Mar 2013, 10:25 AM Agree 0
    Some of these comments astound me. If you chose to be single then so be it. If you chose to be a parent then so be it. The single common differentiation is the child. A child cannot take care of themselves, and contrary to popular belief it takes extra time and money to raise one. I don't condone welfare paying for your kids, but there are circumstances where the flexibility of time is essential for parents. Parents give up a lot to have kids. They give a lot of what they used to have when they were single. Sleeping in on weekends. Going out drinking with their friends. Travelling overseas. yes they made the decision to be parents, but you equally made the decision not to be.

    Kay hit the nail on the head. Be nice and you would probably get the flexibility you want. Otherwise stop whinging about it and maybe go find another job. And as for those comments from HR "professionals" light of your comments I think you should remove the word "professional" from your title....disgraceful.
  • John | 11 Mar 2013, 03:48 PM Agree 0
    C'mon 'Serious'. Keep it nice yourself!
    I personally don't see why an organisation should support their employees children or childcare needs, but have to say that in my large corporate work environment 'Work/Life Balance' has not been all about kids, but recognised for people in different situations and with different needs. I'm sure it's not like that in all organisations, or outside the perhaps 'enlightened' HR teams though. Having said that, about 80% of all the workplace flexibility in my area are due to family commitments, but I've also seen things such as study commitments, volunteering and transitioning to retirement. I guess it comes down to personal needs and presenting a business case for success....and an employer who recognises the benefits.
  • JC | 11 Mar 2013, 05:04 PM Agree 0
    Totally agree with Cates and few other comments at the end of the day we all make choices and we all need to be accountable and responsible for those choices and also our lives. I especially agree with Cate's comments about "Gender, marital status and home circumstances are IMO irrelevant to the granting of work-life opportunities" "Leave and work-life balance opportunities should be around immediate personal responsibilities regardless of whether its personal, family or community responsibility ( we all have them!"

    Does that mean that since I have two older sisters with a disability, and my parents are aging and I may have to look after them as well that my employer has to be even more flexible since I didnt make a choice for my life to pan out that way? I would like a career too just like everyone else but I also know that I am going to one day have to make some decisions about how I am going to manage balancing my work/life, but I certainly dont expect my employer to bend over backwards or that I should get priority over another colleagues children's needs.
  • Joe | 11 Mar 2013, 06:36 PM Agree 0
    Some good comments with a common theme - it's about taking the situation into account and going from there.

    I also have to say that "choosing" to have a child is nothing like "choosing" to have a dog/pet. Please do not compare children to pets, it's rude.
  • Liza | 24 Mar 2013, 05:40 PM Agree 0
    As a middle aged single who has a disabled parent (plus another elderly relative who is single and needs help occasionally), what I do find irks me is that several colleagues have had children and can then come back to work partime if they want to and a temporary job share position is advertised for the other 'part' of their hours, and the option of returning to fulltime is kept open for them any time they want, then with the next child go back to parttime again, then fulltime... this is occuring right now with 2 people I work with. But if I want to go to parttime temporarily to care for my disabled parent if they agree to it at all I would have to permanently give up my fulltime status. In the meantime when they have gone onto partime during the time it has taken to find the temporary staff to do the job share, I am expected to take on their extra workload.

    I am far from against family-friendly policies (I would love to have kids, but made the decision - which was hell - to stay single because the gene that has made my parent disabled can be passed on and I wouldn't give the condition to a rabid dog let alone a child). It's just unfair that I do feel I carry part of their workload but there is no equivalent for someone caring for older/disabled relatives.
  • Vertigo | 25 Mar 2013, 05:19 PM Agree 0
    Hmmm. Let's not assume that every working parent gets the flexibility, and benefits that are assumed to be available to them. But if parents do not get the flexibility they need (not want) then they are forced to leave that work place and find alternative position, often part time, poorly paid,lower skilled roles so that they can juggle the demands of children and working to pay a mortgage. For many families it is not a warm fuzzy situation they face, hand picking which benefits they can profit from, but a cold hard reality. They have to make it work and so they do. However they can.
    If other full time workers have commitments that mean they need to adjust their working situation and they come up against unsupportive employers, they need to look for alternative work to suit their own requirements which may mean pay cuts and a changes in lifestyle - all of a sudden not so appealing.....
  • Nulligravida | 24 Apr 2013, 03:41 PM Agree 0
    "PARENTS give up a lot to have kids. They give a lot of what they used to have when they were single. Sleeping in on weekends. Going out drinking with their friends. Travelling overseas."

    Oh please! Spare me the parenthood as matrydom. If parenthood is all drudgery then don't do it. No-one forces you to do it. Parenthood also has it rewards and these are rewards and benefits that parents privately consume.

    Sure, childless people may sleep in from time to time but to imply that all childless are feckless hedonists and then somehow present this as some kind of undedeserved benefit they somehow derive at parents' expense is disengenous.

    Parents, you CHOSE to be parents. Then you want to maintain the your prenatal lifestyle and consumption habits and you demand someone else to take it in the neck for you? Get real.

    You can't have it all.
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