Unequal treatment in the workplace isn’t limited to race or gender. According to a recent survey by ResumeLab, nearly two-thirds of employees believe those with no children are treated unfairly from their colleagues who are parents.
Additionally, respondents report that child-free workers are more frequently denied time off, required to work late or given heavier workloads. Furthermore, childless associates are less likely to get pay raises and promotions, according to the survey.
For its survey, ResumeLab analyzed answers from 938 respondents using a bespoke online polling tool. It should be noted that 8 of 10 respondents were parents.
- Nearly 3 in 4 respondents (74%) believe parents are treated better in the workplace.
- Not having kids resulted in being denied time-off (63%), having to work overtime (69%) and being given a greater workload (70%).
- 85% of respondents feel employees with children get priority when planning vacations and days off.
- 87% say working parents have more benefits.
- 81% assume child-related reasons for absences are more important to their employer than the reasons of child-free employees.
- 92% said all employees should be treated equally regarding flexible working hours, while 84% share the view that employees with the same role should be treated equally when it comes to workload, regardless of whether they have children.
“The challenge for HR leaders is that there are systematic and personal biases against child-free people. The survey mentions time off, but what about all of the HR benefits that child-free people will never be able to access?” said Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP and founder of Live, Learn, Plan. “While some companies have looked at offering ‘pawternity leave,’ in reality, child-free people will never see many benefits that parents have. Additionally, 32.1% of childless people will never be married (many by choice) and will not be able to access most spousal benefits.”
Extra benefits often offered to families include maternity/paternity leave, family leave, spousal medical benefits, and adoption and IVF support.
“What HR leaders can do is adopt policies and train managers to respect the person rather than their family status,” Zigmont added.
Local business leaders
One Atlantan has made it her personal and professional mission to change the way female childlessness is presented, analyzed and discussed. After 20 years of unexplained infertility, followed by a hysterectomy and diagnosis of endometriosis, Jobi Tyson launched Tutum Global, a platform dedicated to breaking stigmas, health and wellness content, and encouraging the mental wellness of involuntary childless women and childless couples.
Tyson, a wellness practitioner certified in cognitive behavioral therapy and a sociocultural anthropologist, has conducted research on the experience of childless women in the workplace and in society.
In researching 50 childless women throughout the world, Tyson asked her subjects: Do you think that childless women face bias in the workplace?
“Ninety percent answered yes,” she said. “Overall, employers must recognize that each person has their own desires and circumstances. It’s natural for people with children to discuss them at work, but make sure that those without children aren’t asked to do more or excluded just because of a perception of less responsibility outside of the workplace.”
Some tips found in her most recent research study — The Unspoken Bias That Childless Women Face In The Workplace — can be helpful:
- Follow the discrimination laws and don’t make decisions based on parental status.
- Allow childless workers to transfer the benefits for dependents and costs from childcare to elderly care.
- Companies need to understand what is important to all employees and treat all equally.
- Be more consistent across the board and appreciate that those without children also have responsibilities.
“As a mother, and an HR director, I understand that this a complex and concerning issue for employers, as well as employees,” said Kate Harrison, human resources director at Car Donation Centers. “Working in HR, employee welfare is at the heart of my role, and it was distressing to read the results of the survey and the reported inequality, dissatisfaction and tension caused by the current situation. (With) reports of unfair treatment for both parents and non-parents, it is clear that everybody loses when equity isn’t a priority.”
Harrison acknowledged the challenges for child-free people in the workplace, but said she is hopeful there are solutions and ways to promote equality.
Employers should “try and maintain the balance between those who have children and those who don’t,” she said. “Historically, women in the workplace have been unfairly penalized for many reasons, especially those who are parents. In 38 countries around the world, women can still be fired for being pregnant, and although it is now illegal in the U.S., it has left a troublesome legacy.
“Great strides have been made when it comes to supporting parents in the workplace, but has this been at the detriment of other workers?” she asked.
“Parents have enormous responsibilities, which are often dictated by school schedules and child care availability, making it harder for them to be flexible or work later. This must be recognized and respected. However, with the burden unfairly falling on the child-free workforce, is there a way to balance this out?” Harrison continued.
“I would advocate an approach of communication, respect and support. Speak to your workforce and identify any needs they may have in the workplace, and responsibilities they may have outside the workplace. If you have an awareness of each employee’s unique situation, you are better placed to ensure equity in the workplace,” she advised.
For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.