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Working Parents

In: People

Submitted By bellydaisy
Words 2816
Pages 12
Problems Parents Face in the Workplace and Policies That May Resolve These Issues
Parents and Work-Life Balance
Amanda Newton

Executive Summary
The workplace is difficult for parents. This study will show that parents can find it difficult to get hired. Once hired, they face a delicate situation to navigate: stereotypes would have us believe that parents are poor workers with low productivity who take off of work on a whim.
Data will show that, in fact, parents are productive members of the workforce despite substandard policies (and lack thereof) for family leave. Data will also show that when workers are provided with paid leave, some managers and employers pressure employees not to utilize the time off. Multiple studies have shown that nationalized mandatory paid leave policies are an economic boon to countries. In fact, states within the US that have enacted paid leave at the state level have seen the advantages.
Solutions to these problems range from personal changes to national policy. Unfortunately the political climate of the United States prevents national policy changes, regardless of the data proving the benefits. Progress is being made as far as awareness of the issues discussed. Further improvements depend upon multiple points of change: economic development, social beliefs, and an understanding of the data.

Managers who are hiring have a preconceived notion that parents are poor workers or are more likely to take off more time than childless workers (Linn, 2013). Since the economic downturn of 2008, businesses have depended on worker dedication to do more with fewer employees. This has led to a work culture where all employees are expected to dedicate their lives to the company. Those without children are more likely to be hired because it is assumed that they have no needs outside of the office (Linn, 2013). While discussing this issue with hiring professionals, one stated, “I have to use creative ways to figure out if they have kids. Anyone who mentions kids to me is automatically off the list (Liebchen, 2014).” Another professional added, “It’s always a sick kid, a doctor appointment, a school performance… parents just take too much time off. If they aren’t in the office, it puts me behind (Lambert, 2014).” Both professionals in this case are parents.
Work-life balance has become an increasingly glaring issue in today’s job market. While there is a large surplus of workers, many feel that you cannot take time off for any reason. A Pew Research study found that more than half (53%) of all workers find it very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family life (Parker & Wang, 2013). The same study also shows that parents, especially fathers, spend dramatically more time with their children when compared to data from 1965; in addition, 46% of fathers believe that they do not spend enough time with their children (Parker & Wang, 2013). The aggregate data shows that the ideals of United States families have changed, but workplace policies have not kept up.
The most recent census data shows that there are more than 37,000,000 households with children under 18 years of age (US Census Bureau, 2013). This is roughly 32% of all households in the US. Yet nearly one quarter of working parents report that they have either lost or been threatened with job loss when they have taken time off work to care for a sick child or relative (Smith & Kim, 2010). Additionally, 36% of working parents report that they have been a promotion, raise, or new job due to the need for a flexible work schedule (Nielsen, 2014). In other words, although parents account for a large percentage of the potential workforce, they face difficulties not only in getting hired but also as professionals in the workplace. The stereotyping of a parent-worker is especially hard upon parents who left the workforce and are now trying to re-enter.
One of the top problems faced by parents who have taken time off to raise children is the perception that they have lost or not updated their skill set. Because most recruiters take but a few seconds to review a resume, they see the break in employment and stop looking further. While perhaps not in the professional working world, many stay at home parents become active and organized in other ways such as infant enhancement groups, school parent associations, and sporting teams. In these organizations, a parent may use and develop skills that will translate directly to the professional workplace. Some examples of these skills include marketing to organize a bake sale, or event planning, project management, and delegation of projects when organizing a school fundraiser. These are skills that are essential for any high-performing worker. A parent must vocalize to hiring managers and recruiters how they have obtained or retained professional skills. suggests that parents list these volunteer activities on their resume to highlight the fact that they have retained and developed skills since leaving the professional workforce (Issacs). It will help to reinforce the notion that stay at home parents do more than play with children. It is then the responsibility of the recruiter to understand that development of skills does not only occur in a professional setting.
Another issue faced by parents looking to reenter the workforce is that they no longer have a large professional network upon which to rely. It is estimated that companies obtain around 45% of new hires via networking (Adler, 2013). A stay at home parent may have many contacts, yet they might be missing the crucial professional contacts that can quickly get you hired. While some parents may develop a network of other parents, these contacts are less likely to provide the crucial link to the professional world.
There are many professional networking organizations that hold localized events. Parents looking to return to the professional world can join one of these organizations and attend events to grow their network contacts. These organizations are easily found with a quick internet search. Many of these groups also provide seminars on professional matters, something that can also help parents. A number of national networking companies offer specialized services. Women@Work Network is one example, with local chapters in 18 states and women from the US and abroad. Their mission is to keep women at work through all stages of life by providing a niche job search service as well as by staging local networking events (Women@Work Network). They provide members with a number of job hunting resources that range in price from free to $250, including résumé review, podcasts, and a “job search makeover.”
Experts recommend that all parents who are working or plan to return to work after a period of time off should continue to network (Brown, 2013). Having a larger network can be a boon to any professional career, yet many working parents do not make the time to meet other professionals in their field. Investing just a small amount of time into professional networking can help a parent obtain a new position with less stress than for those who have a small network.
When it comes to wages, research has shown that mothers are indeed subject to a “motherhood penalty” by employers (Casey, 2011). This disproportionately affects low-wage women, though the mode of penalty is different between low and high earners. Low wage women are more likely to be offered fewer hours, while high wage earners receive lower salaries and fewer promotions when compared to non-mothers (Casey, 2011). Ironically, the same studies show that becoming a father leads to a statistically significant increase in pay (Casey, 2011).
Other studies have found that workers who take advantage of a company’s policies that are designed to make work and life more balanced are instead punished with lower wages and loss of promotions (Golden, 2001) (Fried, 1998). It is up to supervisors and employers to ensure that the policies are applied fairly amongst those with children and those without (Linn, 2013). The creation of policies to help balance family and work has led to a backlash against parents, while those without children feel the pressure to work longer hours and take less vacation time. In fact, companies provided more vacation time in 2012 compared to 1992 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013) but only 51% of the time provided is actually taken (Fottrell, 2014). Even when vacation time is taken, Americans have a tendency to continue working during the time off. A Harris Interactive poll found that 46% of those surveyed reported being likely to work on their vacation (Harris Interactive, 2011). As the economy begins to return to equilibrium of labor supply and job availability, the imbalance of policy use may also begin to improve.
Another large issue is that the United States is the only one of 185 other developed first world countries that does not have a national mandatory paid parental leave policy. Many of those other countries also provide mandatory paternity and sick leave. The US allows family leave to be a benefit that can be provided by employers, but only 11% of private sector businesses offer paid family leave (Van Giezen, 2013). Again, this is disproportionally provided to higher wage earners than lower wage earners. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 provides only that certain workers can take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. However, this only covers 59% of all US workers, totaling about 90 million people (National Partnership for Women & Families, 2013). Data from 2011 shows that only 15.9% of eligible workers used FMLA time (National Partnership for Women & Families, 2013), signaling that unpaid leave may be too costly for some workers.
US policy on family leave stems from the Regan years when individualistic ideology came to the forefront of politics (Liebelson, 2014). Since then, this ideology has increased in popularity – but only in the United States. All other developed countries have created policies that protect workers and families from the punishing behavior of businesses over family leave. States Joan Williams, a law professor at University of California – Hastings: “The United States is still trying to pretend that real workers don’t have babies. Other countries offer paid maternity leave because they’re facing reality – we have our head in the sand.” Since 1992, paid family and sick leave provided by employers has dropped from an average of 13.75 days to 8.75 days in 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).
While many businesses argue that paid time off would be economically devastating to businesses, statistical data does not agree. Indeed, research shows that paid family leave reduces reliance on government assistance, increases labor force participation, increases the tax base, and also increases consumer spending (Gault, Hartmann, Hegewisch, Milli, & Reichlin, 2014), (Appelbaum & Milkman, 2011). Women covered by paid maternity leave are 69% more likely to return to work as well as work more hours after their return (Gault, Hartmann, Hegewisch, Milli, & Reichlin, 2014). With such a positive economic impact in a time of uncertainty, it would be prudent for congress to institute such paid leave policies. Yet even Hillary Clinton, a proponent of family leave policies, says that such policies are not politically possible (Liebelson, 2014).
Four states have enacted mandatory paid leave: California, New Jersey, Washington, and Connecticut. A recent study of California’s paid leave shows that there has been very little additional cost to businesses (Appelbaum & Milkman, 2011). This study showed that most employers chose to temporarily reassign other workers to cover those on leave. Eighty-nine percent of employers reported a positive or “no noticeable” effect on worker productivity, while a whopping 99% of employers reported a positive increase in employee morale (Appelbaum & Milkman, 2011). By creating a national paid leave policy, the United States can finally begin to catch up with the rest of the world. Economists estimate that the GDP of the United States would rise by 5% if such a policy were enacted (National Partnership for Women & Families, 2013).
There are many issues that working parents face, and not all of these issues are easily overcome. Some problems must be solved by changes on the national and governmental level. The United States lags behind the world in public policy, even while data supports policies that encourage work-life balance. Logically, the US government should provide workers, especially parents, with paid family leave. However, it seems unlikely to happen regardless of many studies showing the benefits.

Works Cited
Adler, L. (2013, June 12). Hire Economics: Why Applying to Jobs is a Waste of Time. Retrieved December 2014, from
Appelbaum, E., & Milkman, R. (2011, January). Leaves That Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California. Retrieved December 2014, from Center for Economic and Policy Research:
Brown, J. (2013, January 22). Why Working Parents Should Be Networking More in 2013 and How to Make it Happen. Retrieved December 2014, from
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2013, August 9). The Economics Daily: More vacation, less sick leave, 1992–2012. Retrieved December 2014, from
Casey, J. (2011, Jan/Feb). An Interview with Michelle J. Budig. Retrieved December 2014, from UPenn Work and Family Researchers Network:
Fottrell, Q. (2014, October 31). Americans Take Only Half of Their Paid Vacation. Retrieved December 2014, from
Fried, M. (1998). Taking time: Parental leave policy and corporate culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Gault, B., Hartmann, H., Hegewisch, A., Milli, J., & Reichlin, L. (2014, March). Paid Parental Leave in the United States: What the data tell us about access, usage, and economic and health benefits. Retrieved December 2014, from
Golden, L. (2001). Flexible work schedules: Which workers get them? American Behavioral Scientist , 44, 1157-1178.
Harris Interactive. (2011, July 28). Americans Work on Their Vacation. Retrieved December 2014, from Harris Interactive:
Issacs, K. (n.d.). Resume Tips for Full-Time Parents Returning to Work. Retrieved December 2014, from
Lambert, D. F. (2014, December). MD. (A. Newton, Interviewer)
Liebchen, V. (2014, December). Director of Nutrition. (A. Newton, Interviewer)
Liebelson, D. (2014, June 27). How America ended up with the worst maternity leave laws on Earth. Retrieved December 2014, from
Linn, A. (2013, November 6). Office Smackdown: Parents vs. Childless Workers. Retrieved December 2014, from
National Partnership for Women & Families. (2013, February). A Look at the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2012 Family and Medical Leave Act Employee and Worksite Surveys. Retrieved December 2014, from
Nielsen. (2014). Harris Poll of 4,096 U.S. adults (aged 18+) conducted online.
Parker, K., & Wang, W. (2013, March 14). Modern Parenthood: Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family. Retrieved December 2014, from Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends:
Smith, T., & Kim, J. (2010). Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences. National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago for the Public Welfare Foundation publication.
US Census Bureau. (2013, August). America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2012. Retrieved December 2014, from
Van Giezen, R. W. (2013, August). Paid leave in private industry over the past 20 years. Retrieved December 2014, from
Women@Work Network. (n.d.). About Women@Work Network. Retrieved December 2014, from…...

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