Tuesday Debate - Parental Leave

22 July 2008

In 2008, how much responsibility should be people be made to take in the workplace for their decision to have children? According to Elizabeth Broderick, Australia's current Sex Discrimination Commissioner, very little.

The idea of work-family balance is a noble one. But how far should it go? Ms Broderick states "If you have caring responsibilities and you want to get promoted then forget about it. The ideal worker is a male with no caring responsibilities". She would like to see employees able to, for example, leave work early a few afternoons a week to care for their children, with no detrimental effects on their career prospects.

But someone has to pick up the slack. The work the parent has left behind still needs to be done. Should bosses be required to reward and promote employees who aren't handling a full work load, simply because they have children? Should childless employees - once, say, over the age of 50 - be allowed to take 14 weeks of paid leave to compensate for the parental leave they did not take earlier in their careers? And if it is acceptable to leave work at 4pm twice a week to pick up your kids from school, why shouldn't other employees feel resentful that they are earning the same money, and still at their desks at 6pm? Why has childrearing become the great sacred duty-above-all? If people decide to have children, should their companies and society have to compensate, or should parents accept that something, somewhere - careers, money, time - has to be sacrificed?

I've asked a lot of questions here. So I'm throwing the floor open; please feel free to provide some answers.


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