Are childless employees victims of discrimination?

Are childless employees victims of discrimination?

With new technology and the rise of the gig economy, work patterns have blurred the boundaries between home and office – but work-life flexibility allowances are still geared to support those with children, rather than those without.

However, there are many reasons that people require employment flexibility: religious commitments, bereavements, and long-term medical conditions - as well as increasing numbers of us managing multiple freelance contracts.

     READ MORE: Flexible working - the good and the bad

New BBC reporting reveals the tensions exist between those with kids, who are seemingly given more working hours flexiblity, and those who have to pick up the slack - especially if reasons for absence are not verified.

Speaking to the BBC, freelance Social Media Director Georgie Gayler notes that colleagues notice unquestioned absences – reasoned to bosses as the need to pick up kids, cover childcare emergencies or look after ill offspring – more than HR departments and managers think.

"If their children are sick, or they need flexible working suddenly due to difficulties at home, then of course this should be recognised, but at the same time, the job still needs to be done and without an impact on other colleagues, and this is where it can often fall short," she says.

Some employees, like marketing professional Ryan Lock, would welcome changes touted by employment lawyers that would change the law to like-for-like hours – ensuring parity in work-life flexibility for those with, and without, children.

"For me, flexible working is something that empowers you to work where and when you feel you can be most productive, be it home, the office or a coffee shop, whereas I do think a certain generation of senior management with children see it as a chance to block out windows for extracurricular activities."

Legal groups, such as Acuity Legal, believe it is Ryan’s workforce age group – commonly referred to as Millennials – that will drive legislative change for working hour directives in years to come.

Whilst top executives, including Richard Morris, UK CEO at Regus, believe that the notion of nine-to-five working days are outdated and potentially limit worker productivity.

“Businesses of every size and in every sector are consuming flexible workspace and a pattern is emerging which aims to fit the workplace around the worker rather than the other way around.

“ [A] flexible approach provides a foundation to further explore the possibilities of tailoring working programmes to individuals in a way that simply isn’t feasible under a fixed structure.”

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