Learning & Development

The Childless Stigma at Work

In the modern workplace, managers tend to be fairly understanding when it comes to parents’ work/life balance. They understand that an employee may not be able to get to the office on time or may need to leave early on occasion to pick up or drop off kids at school or get to sporting events or musical recitals or even work from home to care for a sick child.

But that same level of flexibility often isn’t extended to the childless. There is sometimes a stigma or perception that childless workers have no real nonwork obligations and boundless free time. Consequently, it shouldn’t be a big deal for them to cover for colleagues with children or get “voluntold” to take an extra shift, work over a holiday, or stay late.

The Stigma of Being Childless

In an article reporting on the findings of a ResumeLab survey, Dominique Goldschmitt writes that “74% of respondents believed that people with children are treated better in the workplace. And surprise! This wasn’t the opinion of people without children only. Actually, our respondents were dominated by employees with kids. 8 out of 10 survey takers were parents.” 

Respondents also reported that, at least once in their experience, childless workers:

  • Were denied time off—63%
  • Had to work overtime—69%
  • Were given a greater workload—70%

Moreover, the survey found that nearly half of respondents felt that employees with children are more likely to get promoted in their workplace, while 29% believed childless workers were more likely to get promoted, and 22% felt there was no difference. That breakdown was similar in terms of expectations for pay raises.

Avoid Stigmatizing Childless Workers

So, what is the takeaway for employers? This data shouldn’t be taken as a call to “crack down” on working parents. Instead, it’s a reminder that not all employees have families, but they almost certainly have a life and other obligations that are important to them. As fewer workers have children, it’s increasingly important to avoid marginalizing this growing and crucial segment of the workplace.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.