We Have Less Maternity Leave Than Pakistan? 5 Things That Would Make Your Job Humane
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The United States is practically the only developed country in the world that doesn't require companies to give their workers time off. In Germany, workers are guaranteed a month. In the UK, they're guaranteed more than five weeks of paid vacation. In the U.S., unique in its class, there is no such guarantee.
Even though 90% of workers do get some vacation time, many don't even take it. This is unfortunate, because good vacation policies create efficiency, loyalty and help refresh and rejuvenate the workforce. Physical time away from work can also bring new perspective and new ideas on how to solve old problems. Many smaller companies and startups have also stopped making vacation time a matter of "days logged" and opened up their vacation policies so workers don't feel anxiety about missing work and everyone's vacations don't all pile up at the same time.
3. Expand Affordable Childcare
We need more and better public childcare so parents don't have to choose between earning an income and taking care of their kids.
Kathleen Geier writes at Washington Monthly that though this may seem like a dead issue for many (and partly because rich women don't have to worry about it) there are still places to dig in:
A universal childcare system is one of the big missing pieces of the unfinished feminist revolution. A big new social program doesn’t appear to be on even the most distant expanses of the horizon, but there’s no reason why we can’t begin to take bits and pieces of what we already have, start giving it the funding it deserves, and expand access.
In-office daycare centers are another great innovation for larger companies and workplaces that could bring us closer to universal daycare.
4. Embrace Collective Bargaining Rights and Organizing Drives
Maybe you know that bumper-sticker slogan: "Unions: the folks that brought you the weekend." Unions pushed for the foundations of work-life balance we have now, and they continue to enable workers to fight back when they are, for instance, fired for refusing overtime, being pregnant, or taking care of a sick family member.
Pensions allow workers to retire and open the workforce to younger workers while healthcare benefits and of course, vacation time and sick/family leave policies can also be secured via collective bargaining. When I was a teacher in New York City public schools, our sick-day policy, hard-fought for by our much-maligned chapter of the UFT, allowed teachers time to do things like go to the doctor and take care of their own sick kids and family members.
5. Reward the Implementation of Work-Share and Part-Time Programs
Speaking of office innovations, work-share and part-time programs: In a followup to her story questioning whether women can "have it all," Anne-Marie Slaughter, who left her job at the State department, says we need more innovation around how to keep women (and, I'd add, men) who need to slow down their careers:
"My whole point is that we can give women that kind of flexibility and change our expectations, so that when they make choices to defer that dream job or fast promotion because of their family, they can still stay in the game and still be eligible for promotion as far as they want to go."
My own mother's boss gave her the option to work part-time when she gave birth to twins. As a result, she got to take an extremely active role in parenting us and simultaneously stay on a career track that led upward. The concept of part-time work, lost to many high-intensity workplaces, means that those who want to focus as much on "life" as on work get to earn an income, keep their intellects and skills sharp, and opt back in fully when family or outside duties ease up.