Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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Here's where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions, work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of what's in the news.

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Equality Blog

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pay Cut

One of the more common responses I hear to reduced hours or flexible employment is that my job can't be changed like that. People often point to their demanding bosses and unrelenting workloads to justify the belief. I suspect that many of the people in this story about employers who have mandated reduced hours may have felt the same way.

One employer even reduced his entire office staff of 8 employees to a four day work week instead of laying off 3 employees. They are participating in a Mass. unemployment program, which we mentioned here recently, that allows these employees to receive unemployment benefits for a portion of the lost wages, netting them a 20% reduction in time on the job for a 10% reduction in pay. In my world, that sounds like a pay rate increase, at least until unemployment runs out.

The article covers the hardships to employees when their hours, and pay, are cut but ends with the silver lining of having more time to pursue other interests. How would you react to a reduction in pay if the "other interests" included the things you love to do outside of work? Could you shave your family budget by 10% to have more time to exercise? How about spend more time with your siblings, parents, or kids? Maybe take that Community Education class you've had your eye on?

Many of the ESP parents we talk with tell us that the work/life puzzle hinges on striving to optimize their life instead of maximize their income. They tend to value their careers so that they can continue to command higher pay rates over time. This allows them to vary the amount of time and energy needed to bring in the family paycheck.

Maybe the silver lining could become a fantastic life they just might love!


Anonymous Dennis said...

Marc, it's an interesting article, although you failed to mention the town employees who are expected to do the same amount of work in less time. As one said "I still have to do my job. Most days I work through my lunch hour so I can make up the hours. I used to stay late. I try not to do that." I'm not sure how giving up lunch hours and staying late helps with work-life balance.

The article also focuses on people who really need the income from full-time work. I think when you have a higher-paying job, it's harder to see how losing even 10% of your income can really hurt people. And then they are going to get hit with another pay cut when the unemployment runs out.

Again, I think it would be great if more employers offered part-time options for people who want them. At the same time, when people are forced into them when they can't afford to take the pay cuts, it's not good for anyone.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

There always seems to be escalation in work hours regardless of how long you are on the clock. A 40 hour week often means 40-50 just as a 30 hour week may mean 30-40. I still think there is a time savings.

It's difficult to cover all the details in a short blog post. I think it's obvious that unemployment is a temporary, transitional benefit. The intention of the manufacturing example was to retain all the employees long term. I presume he would like nothing better than for his business to pick up so he would be able to get all the employees back to full time.

Lastly, I don't think a simple lifestyle is only available to the rich. In fact, in all the ESP couples we have met and interviewed the rich are the cohort that seem to find it the most difficult to walk away from the material culture.

Cultivating and tending a lifestyle that allows for some savings, regardless of income level, offers the tremendous benefit of being able to weather salary fluctuations either from downsizing or outright layoffs. This is doubly true when a parenting team sets these goals together.

Thanks for weighing in. Your comments are valuable to point out that society certainly doesn't make it easy to tinker with the standard work arrangements.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Dennis said...

Marc, I agree with your assessment that ESP is possible for any income level. I just think that this article isn't a great example of promoting the benefits of cutting back to fewer hours of work and the corresponding income reduction given that the people interviewed are all in the situation involuntarily and are struggling with it.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Rosenbaum said...

One of the big reasons we decided to settle in Switzerland is that part-time jobs are a much more normal part of the culture here: you see job advertisements in the paper with titles like "Software Architect 60%" meaning they're looking for a three-day-a-week software architect. Which makes a great deal of sense, as that's just how much software architect some projects need.

One reason this doesn't happen more in America is that employers pay for health care. This imposes a fixed cost per employee (since few people want to have 60% of their hospital bills paid) and thus a huge disincentive for employers to employ people in rational amounts, rather than trying to squeeze as many hours as possible out of each employee. (In Switzerland, by contrast, everyone buys health care privately from the insurance provider of their choice -- but mandates ensure that everyone has to buy health care, even healthy people, and thus the cost of it is low.)

One solution in the American context might be to allow couples to pool their health care, each contributing half, but most plans are not set up to support that.

1:30 AM  
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