If you’re like most of today’s parents, you know all about the challenges of taking care of family and working at a paid job at the same time. Too often, parents (especially mothers) and other family caregivers experience a wall of inflexibility and even discrimination at work.
The reality today is that over 29 million full-time American workers are also unpaid family caregivers – whether they are caring for children, aging parents, or other ill or dependent family members. Unfortunately, these workers earn lower wages and have less job stability than other workers. Some examples: for every dollar men earn, women without children earn 90 cents and women WITH children earn just 73 cents. Fathers in general make more than men without children — but fathers who take an active role in caregiving are actually seeing wage penalties more like those of mothers.
Fortunately, there is a burgeoning movement to change how work works, so that it can better fit with the realities of today’s families and create sustainable economic growth.
First, by defining the family-forward workplace, one that is structured so that responsible family caregivers can be responsible employees, too. It takes official policies as well as a supportive culture, and includes some or all of the following:
- Flexible work hours and workweeks
- Paid time off (including sick and vacation leave)
- Parental and or family leave (ideally paid)
- Part-time work options with equitable (pro-rated) pay and benefits
- Equal pay for equal work
- Breastfeeding accommodations [Sharon, I’d say more here given our newish and unique law and link to the toolkit]
- Predictable schedules
- 40-hour workweeks (maximum)
- Pathways for re-entering after time out of the paid labor market
- Proactively informing employees of their flexible work options
- Clear expectations for supervisors that they incorporate family-supportive behaviors into their management practices
Our sister organization, Family Forward Education Fund, is also celebrating our state’s flexible and family-friendly employers. Every fall, the Great Ideas @ Work event gathers employers and employees, business and nonprofit leaders, and policy makers to celebrate employers that are making work work. At the event, winners of the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility are honored.
What are your experiences of combining work and family? What kinds of changes in the workplace do you think would make the biggest difference? Do you work somewhere that is family-forward? Or are you needing support advocating for better policies at your workplace? We’d love to hear about your experiences.
And be sure to check out our employer resources page now.