Do Working Parents Deserve First Choice on Shifts?

4 years ago

Working parents have a lot to juggle. So does everyone else. The question at hand is: Do working parents deserve to have first choice and priority in choosing work shifts and receiving work flexibility?

According to a Canadian Court, employers are obliged to accommodate employee's child-care requests and needs. The Globe and Mail reports:

The decision handed down by Justice Leonard Mandamin explicitly states that requests for childcare accommodations stem from genuine need and are not simply the product of lifestyle choices.

Judge Mandamin’s ruling was made in the context of parents grappling with irregular shift work, but experts suggest the ruling could pave the way for much more broad based discussion on the role family life plays in the workplace.

I wholeheartedly agree that employers should honor employees' needs for flexibility for child care. I also firmly believe that when the focus is only on working parents when it comes to the topic of work-life balance, or priority for granting time-off/shift/personal requests we miss more than half the boat. I can personally say that when I worked in corporate, it was very clear to me that if you were not a parent, you were a second-class human in the eyes of managers granting time-off, flexibility, and requesting extra work/overtime. Many times I felt my personal needs and requests were pooh-poohed because I was not a parent but the same requests were honored for working moms (think: job share arrangements, time-off, weekend work, etc.). So my viewpoint is that working parents deserve support and understanding from employers so they can meet the many demands of raising kids AND employees who do not have children deserve equanimity to meet their own personal desires and needs as well.

(It is important to note that the ruling mentioned above is not intended to have every parent trump non-parents, merely to protect working parents who otherwise would have to lose their jobs. Yet this topic can get fiery in the parent vs non-parent arena.)



Image: Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Playground Confidential believes working parents deserve first dibs on shifts. She shares in her post 3 main reasons why she believes parents rise in the pecking order of priority when it comes to work shifts. One being:

Having children may be a choice, but taking care of them is not. Juggling work and childcare is hard enough for working parents on a typical schedule. (Sick days and PA days and doctor’s appointments and school breaks all have to be covered somehow.) But how would a single parent even go about finding child care to cover shift work? Daycares have set hours and round-the-clock nanny care is absurdly expensive. A parent’s need to work around child care limitations does trump someone else’s desire for a 9 to 5 lifestyle.

Where I struggle with the whole working parents always get first choice approach is that one person's life, choices, and responsibilities are not innately more important than someone else's. I do agree that it is common decency to help out your fellow co-worker. I would do that for someone whether they needed to cut out early to take care of their child or they were getting slammed trying to get their degree in the evening. I think it is equally important that when we discuss this topic that we don't unintentionally discriminate against every non-parent. It can be easy for an employer to do that. It can be convenient for the court of public opinion to do that.

My renegade approach is: Why not treat all employees as unique human beings with needs that extend beyond the workplace and beyond the neatly structured container of exact shifts? Then we might just all sit at the same table and create better workplaces for all.

What is your opinion on this topic? What challenges have you experienced as a working parent? If you're not a parent, have you ever felt your needs ignored or given lesser value because of that? Would love to hear the voices of this community in the comments.

Paula Gregorowicz plucks women business owners off the hamster wheel of overwhelm, struggle, and self-doubt and guides them to a purposeful path of building authentic and successful businesses using a unique blend of practical action and inner awareness..
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