Gender discrimination?

(30 Posts)
MayMom Sat 07-Dec-13 11:45:10

I work in a school that is tightening up their staff absence policy. During a conversation with a member of Senior Leadership team, he mentioned that a conversation was taking place regarding the tendancy for the mother to be one that stays home when a child is ill and that it should be shared out more between parents. With the suggestion that female teachers who are parents will be asked for their partners to stay home when they call up with childcare issues. Surely this is gender discrimination if the teachers who are fathers aren't asked the same? What do you think?

MayMom Thu 12-Dec-13 20:18:25

Yikes!
Let's keep it friendly. Thanks to everyone who responded. I think lots of posts were coming from slightly different angles. My own angle....as someone who has worked in secondary education for over 15 years and has seen some of the most ridiculous decisions made by managers of education at ALL levels (ahem...Gove) nothing would surprise me. I will have to wait and see.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Tue 10-Dec-13 14:07:59

grin
thanks

HermioneWeasley Tue 10-Dec-13 09:36:24

Flowery, as ever you are

1). Right
2). Eloquent
3). Patient in the face of extreme provocation and intransigence

I feel the need to leap in front of you, slap Ribena with a glove and challenge him/her to a dual for patronising you!

TheDoctrineOfSanta Tue 10-Dec-13 09:28:06

Reasonable efforts means reasonable efforts. If your partner works on an oil rig, it's unreasonable to share emergency leave when they are away.

My old work policy was to make reasonable efforts to have medical appointments at the end of the day. Didn't mean you got disciplined for going to a morning clinic.

However, I do see what FBR is getting at somewhat - if the policy change doesn't change behaviour, will the employer take any action?

Squiffyagain Tue 10-Dec-13 07:00:49

Ribena, the fact that more management are male and will cause consequentially more disruption/cost by taking time off will of course be eliminated once the ratio of promoting women into mgmt is better.

And removing gender-specific cultural expectations (such as the mums taking the time off) in order to help facilitate this is surely a good thing? I say this as a partner in a firm and one who also sees the costs quite clearly.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Mon 09-Dec-13 20:13:40

"What's so hard to understand?"

Er, nothing, thanks for asking. I don't think I was giving the impression of being confused by anything, and I like to think by now I have a pretty good handle on managing staff effectively and what HR is for thanks.

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 08-Dec-13 23:40:28

Policies are a tool to manage staff.

HR is there to keep employers out of the courts.

What's so hard to understand?

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 08-Dec-13 23:34:35

What do you think policies are there for exactly?

For fun?

FloweryTaleofNewYork Sun 08-Dec-13 22:12:50

"The reason I mentioned tribunals and dismissals is because that is the route that employment law uses to sort out problems."

Ah, I see.

That's nonsense of course, but if that's your genuine belief and/or experience, then that explains how you've been posting.

No, most employers don't sort out their problems by sacking people, by punishing people, or in tribunals.

A policy like "any employee who takes more than 5 days emergency leave a year will automatically be subject to disciplinary action" would be indirectly discriminatory and vulnerable to challenge.

A statement in a policy like "[employer] expects staff to make reasonable efforts to share emergency leave requirements with the child's other parent where possible" is not a discriminatory policy. It allows for nuance, personal circumstances and reasonable behaviour on both parts, and is not a clear route to a tribunal.

If he OPs employer does decide to revise the relevant policy and incorporate something aimed at redressing the balance and encouraging parents to share time off, let's not assume they'll go for the former statement and start disciplining people, because there is absolutely no reason to make that assumption.

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 08-Dec-13 17:54:25

Because it is a policy that will only affect women. If it affects men as well, then it is less likely to be shown to be discriminatory.

The reason I mentioned tribunals and dismissals is because that is the route that employment law uses to sort out problems.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Sun 08-Dec-13 16:35:35

How is it discriminatory if the male staff don't take more? How does that make the policy discriminatory?

Who said you don't have the right to respond? Of course you do. confused

I just find your responses about tribunals and dismissals over dramatic in the context of the OP that's all. Just my view.

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 08-Dec-13 15:52:24

A policy, (should they even come up with one) requiring all staff to make reasonable attempts to share emergency leave among both parents is not discriminatory

It is if the males in the company don't start taking more.

I'm not being dramatic. I'm responding to comments on a forum. As is my right to do so.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Sun 08-Dec-13 12:57:35

Talk about over dramatic!

Based on the fact that the OP has merely said the employer would like the female staff currently taking lots of emergency leave to ensure they are sharing it with their partners, there is absolutely no reason to leap to the conclusion that such a goal is going to end in disciplinaries, dismissals discrimination claims or tribunals.

A policy, (should they even come up with one) requiring all staff to make reasonable attempts to share emergency leave among both parents is not discriminatory.

There is also absolutely no reason to believe this non-existent policy is about confining people or disciplining them if they take "too much" emergency leave. Perhaps that's what policies are about where you work, but don't tar all employers with the same brush.

All we know at the moment is that the employers would like staff who currently take lots of emergency leave to make reasonable efforts to share it with their partner. There is no reason to think that aim is unreasonable, unfair or discriminatory.

How they do it, if they do it, might be a problem. But let's not assume they will behave badly or treat people unfairly with no reason to believe that. Scaremongering isn't helpful.

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 08-Dec-13 10:52:08

Ribena, I really don't understand. The right to time off is for an emergency situation - ie to make arrangements for care, not to provide care. But the reality for many is that if their child is sick, they need to take time off. Non-teaching staff can take annual leave at short notice (if their managers are helpful) and rearrange work. The reality for teachers or TAs is that their work time is fixed and so is their annual leave, which can't be taken at other times. So they only have the right to (unpaid) emergency leave. If those teaching staff members are taking a lot of leave for childcare reasons, that's illogical for the school and the parents (unless they are both teachers). But as Flowery said, spreading the problem across classes has to be better for the kids affected

Which bit don't you understand?

I've explained it several times, in different ways. We do not know that all teaching staff are women, and all management are men. That is just an assumption.

Too many women are taking emergency leave. So they need to address this.

Their solution is to suggest that more men take the leave instead. Which is great.

However. They are trying to implement a new policy. Which could end up in different scenarios.

Some of the scenarios could show the company to be unfair to women, some could end up with the company in court or being taken to a tribunal, some could end up with no real gain in finance or days lost; as we don't know the actual male to female ratio of teaching staff.

It is a statutory right to be able to take emergency dependents leave. More women than men traditionally take that leave. So it could automatically be unfair to have a policy where they will discipline anyone taking too much.

I am looking at this from a business owner and legal angle, I can see others are looking at it from a 'who covers the classes' angle. I also own a training company, as well as teach in college, and the practicalities are not easy to manage.

They want other companies to take up the slack by taking more dependents leave, however how do they know what the other companies' policies are and that they aren't taking up the slack already? How do they know whether their staff take all the days or only half of them? What about single mothers? Those with disabled families? Those with no other family? Those with a, b, c through to z... Any lawyer would have a field day with this one. And if a single mother isn't disciplined but a married one is? Ad infinitum...

Don't assume that a policy is there for any reason other than to confine people and to manage them if they stray - this policy is about disciplining people who take too much emergency leave. So someone with a very sick child then gets sick themselves worrying about the verbal and written warnings they are getting each time they have to take a day's emergency leave.

Seriously - this policy is wrong on so many levels; I'm sure it's been thought about many times but they could get into so much hot water for zero net gain that it just isn't worth it.

EATmum Sun 08-Dec-13 10:13:48

Ribena, I really don't understand. The right to time off is for an emergency situation - ie to make arrangements for care, not to provide care. But the reality for many is that if their child is sick, they need to take time off. Non-teaching staff can take annual leave at short notice (if their managers are helpful) and rearrange work. The reality for teachers or TAs is that their work time is fixed and so is their annual leave, which can't be taken at other times. So they only have the right to (unpaid) emergency leave. If those teaching staff members are taking a lot of leave for childcare reasons, that's illogical for the school and the parents (unless they are both teachers). But as Flowery said, spreading the problem across classes has to be better for the kids affected.

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 08-Dec-13 09:56:11

I know there isn't a policy yet. I read the OP. This is a thread discussing the potential policy.

And that's my point; if the new policy is that men are to take more of the burden, then they will be expecting their male staff to take more time off. If the females continue to take time off, then they will have to take action using disciplinary measures which takes more management time to resolve, and to hire new staff which costs money.

If they specifically say that the policy of males taking more time to deal with sick kids is only for their female staff, then that is automatically unfair.

They will have to show that their males are taking MORE time and hence, overall, the time taken will just shift to the males and there will be no net gain on this policy.

I am currently a Director and have been in senior management for 10 years; this is a policy that could be unfair, and I see return no benefit to the company.

If it works and less women take time off but none of their male staff take more time off it could be shown to be unfair, and could land them in court.

If it works and less women but more men take time off then no net gain.

If it doesn't work, and women still take time off then it will be a cost to the company in management time dealing with it; and there will be a potential to be taken to a tribunal for not allowing dependents leave which is a statutory right.

Waste of time.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Sun 08-Dec-13 09:55:29

Oh, and fourthly, even in the unlikely event that a) the male:female staff ratio at this school is 50:50; b) the employers of the male staff's partners are finding a problem and c) they decide to simultaneously implement something similar, resulting in the amount of emergency absence remaining unchanged, the policy is still not flawed.

Spreading it evenly is better. If 5 female staff are off for 6 days each year, their classes are suffering from 2 days inconvenience and disruption each term.

If 5 female staff and 5 male staff all take 3 days each, the net amount is the same, but the disruption is spread meaning no classes are more heavily inconvenienced.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Sun 08-Dec-13 09:44:10

Well it certainly sounds as though you hold an opinion, if you don't fair enough.

"The policy is flawed, as what they expect the females to do less of, they will also have to expect the males to do more of."

Firstly there isn't a policy yet anyway. Secondly I imagine the school staff is very female-heavy, meaning women doing less and men doing more will result in a net reduction, and thirdly, the male staff will only start doing more if the employers of their partners are suffering a significant burden of female staff taking emergency leave and implement the same policy.

EATmum Sun 08-Dec-13 08:49:03

Another one who doesn't understand the issue here - the school want their staff to share leave for childcare reasons evenly between parents. Seems v logical to me.
My DH used to teach in a primary school, so it makes me smile a bit - as he would NEVER take time off because he would be letting down 30 children. [He does his fair share now - this was specific to teaching rather than a reluctance to help.] But the principle is a good one I think - that if I didn't go to work it would affect a few meetings that could be rearranged - whereas a class full of children would all lose out if their teacher was absent. So if that's happening a lot, I can see that the school would want to have a conversation about it with staff who take that leave (in a general rather than gender-specific way).

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 08-Dec-13 08:35:17

I don't hold any opinion.

The policy is flawed, as what they expect the females to do less of, they will also have to expect the males to do more of. So in the long run, the only thing that will change is that the will have to spend more management time dealing with the fall out of the new policy.

A policy doesn't have to be explicit for it to be automatically unfair, and the policy itself is flawed from the start.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Sat 07-Dec-13 22:35:25

That's a huge leap. The chances of them disciplining female staff for taking emergency leave are incredibly slim, and dismissing them virtually nil. That's really not going to be a factor, seriously.

Spreading time evenly over both parents is fair to the children in the classes of the teachers who are currently off too often, and fairer to the employer of those teachers as they are not bearing all the burden of emergency leave for that family. You may hold a different opinion, but evidently the employer in the OP feels sharing emergency leave is fair.

I'm sorry I don't know how management being frequently male comes into this school's plan at all. If both parents in the family are employed by the school but the mother usually takes time off, then this policy would mean that would be shared by them both. If the male is higher paid it would save the school money if he takes the unpaid leave rather than her.

But the OP doesn't say anything to indicate that it's more than one parent being employed by the school. It sounds as though there are female employees, probably mainly teaching staff, who are possibly taking more emergency leave than they need to because their partner, employed elsewhere, is not doing his fair share. Naturally the OPs school would like the disruption to be shared between both parents, thereby reducing the impact on the school and the children.

As long as they don't write a policy saying female staff will be expected to make efforts to share leave with their partners but male staff will not (as I'm sure they won't), I can't see a problem with encouraging efforts to share the burden between parents. <shrug>

FunkyBoldRibena Sat 07-Dec-13 18:02:56

Any why would it be preferable if the overall time is spread over different staff? If anything, the tendency for management is to be male [as a society] so that would actually cost a company more not less and not the same.

FunkyBoldRibena Sat 07-Dec-13 18:01:41

No idea where investigations, disciplinaries and hiring come into it

Erm; if they are going to discipline female staff due to having more days off...and then dismiss them after an investigation then they have to hire new people.

That's where the investigations, disciplinaries and hiring comes into it. All of which cost money.

FloweryTaleofNewYork Sat 07-Dec-13 17:33:42

I would imagine there are more female staff, but either way, if the time off is the same overall but more spread amongst the staff rather than concentrated in the female staff, that is preferable.

"as they start to spend more time carrying out investigations and disciplinaries; and spend more on hiring"

No idea where investigations, disciplinaries and hiring come into it.

FunkyBoldRibena Sat 07-Dec-13 15:21:49

I'm not sure how you think a requirement for all staff to share emergency leave with the other parent will reinforce any kind of "circular argument". Equal sharing between both parents is surely a desirable thing

I'm not saying it's better or worse; I'm just proving a logical argument.

The situation is that women are taking more time off in the OP's workplace than men; for dependents leave. The workplace is trying to change the policy to force more men to take it off instead.

However it stands that in order to compare women and men in this instance, with women taking more time; it stands to reason that their own policy is ensuring that their own male employees are NOT taking the time. Otherwise there could be no comparison as the time would be equal.

So the situation is that more men will be allowed to take time off and let their women stay at home [in other companies] and the women at the OP's company will take less time off and let their partners [in other companies] take less time off.

Over a period of time, if there are an equal number of men, women and children the reduction of women taking days will be taken up by the increase in men taking days off; hence it's a circular argument that they will benefit as what they gain from the women they will lose from the men.

Of course, if they employ far more women than men; they will benefit but as they start to spend more time carrying out investigations and disciplinaries; and spend more on hiring [presumably men that take less time anyway, but will be expected to take more of the burden once they are employed by the company] again, it will be a net loss overall.

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