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The Care Crisis: How do employers deal with working families?

ASK THIS | May 01, 2007

Some employers have creative policies to accommodate family needs but others are inflexible. E.J. Graff says this is a subject that needs more reporting, and offers some good questions for starters. Third in a series

By E.J. Graff

Many employers still treat workers as if there’s someone home full-time to handle family emergencies--even though that’s no longer the case for most American families. Half the nation’s workforce has no paid sick days. Of those who do, many can’t use them to care for family members. And yet workers and family members do get sick or need significant care. If a worker wants to work fewer hours for some period of time to offer that care, there can be a significant hourly penalty: American part-time workers earn 21 percent less per hour than full-timers, a penalty that’s twice as high as in the U.K.

What do those families do when they can’t afford to lose pay or risk being fired and yet need to care for a sick child, a spouse, or a parent?

Some employers have creative policies that accommodate family realities; others are inflexible, forcing workers to choose between their families and their jobs. What policies are in place at our community’s major employers?

Questions for the major employers in your area:

Q. Do working parents (including low-income parents) have the flexibility they need to meet with teachers and school officials or pick up their children when sick?

Q. Are workers fired if they refuse last-minute mandatory overtime, or are they given time to make family care arrangements?

Q. Is family leave available equally to men and women, or are men given the message (explicit or implicit) that taking care of the family is a woman’s job?

Q. Are reasonably paid part-time, shared, and flexible jobs available for workers with family needs, or must workers take jobs at significantly lower hourly rates if they need to cut back on the job for a few months or years to care for dependent family members?

Q. What local industries and occupations are better or worse for women and men with dependend family members?

Q. Are some men pushed into working longer hours than they wish, while some women are pushed out?

Q. What are the costs to local employers (such as high turnover) in not accommodating family realities?

Is there an outstanding employer--or an especially punitive employer--who might be profiled?



Next: Are our community’s working women discriminated against once they have children? 

[Click here for Part 1 and and here for Part 2 of this series] 

Cuts Across Socioeconomic Strata
Posted by Ron Marcelo - Care.com
05/08/2007, 01:13 PM

I find that Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) focuses on hourly wage workers without also considering the experiences of "exempt" hires. There is no consideration to hourly work or overtime, simply, the question asked, "Is the job getting done". This unfortunately seems to afford employers greater leeway to select "exempt" workers for the amount of time they may devote to their position. Even if selected, "facetime" a work place cliche, really does play a part in subsequent promotions and salary.

So I hope that FRD moves in the direction of addressing the conundrum facing "exempt" employees. The trade off of salary versus hourly wages seems to be money over employee protections since hiring and promotional decisions are subjective and rarely in the public forum.

My wife and I were young parents leaving selective New England colleges and we faced discrimination so we learned to not talk about our family responsibilities. Now that we have more economic freedom and can see these employer practices for what they are, discriminatory, we will participate in the dialog. Please continue this debate as this will be a great service to many families in all socioeconomic levels.

Ron Marcelo

The mommy war machine
A Washington Post outlook piece by E.J. Graff on how the media scare women into working—and not working.

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