In reference to Mills’ article, "Workplace Wars: How much should I Be required to meet the needs of Your child?," explain why Mills finds it problematic when differential benefits are provided to...

In reference to Mills’ article, "Workplace Wars: How much should I Be required to meet the needs of Your child?," explain why Mills finds it problematic when differential benefits are provided to parent by employers.  Do you believe that companies should treat everyone the same, or should they take into account the special needs of parents? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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From a strictly classical liberal point of view, Mills is on to something.  She is fairly persuasive in being able to suggest that raising healthy and happy children is a concern of the society, as a whole.  She is willing to concede that some type of government understanding in the tax code and in benefits could be in order to help parents.  Where she draws the line is in the business involvement in such an issue.  Mills's problem with this is that she sees a violation of the "equal work for equal pay" element that has been ingrained as a part of the modern business setting:

Here it does seem to me that the provision of
differential benefits to working parents violates our
strong, long-standing commitment to the principle of
equal pay for equal work... 'If compensation packages given to parents are worth $10,000 more
than those given to non-parents, then we’re compensating parents for their fertility and not their work.'

Mills suggests that businesses can invest in strategic planning and configuration to ensure that the workplace treats employees who do not have children and those who do in the same manner.  This might involve "looking for ways to modify working conditions to facilitate both family and community involvements by everyone. In that way, contributions by parents can be considered one of a range of caring work and civic involvements."  Such an approach goes far in avoiding the workplace situation where parents leave their childless colleagues "picking up the slack."

Mills is fairly persuasive in her points.  There can be ways in which organizations find ways to develop work practices that embrace everyone's conditions and talents.  This helps to treat everyone with a sense of equity in the workplace setting, validating all.  One of the most interesting points that Mills raises is that "working parents cannot have it all."  Some choices have to be made, just as some modifications have to be made.  Mills is convincing on this end as out choices define who we are and, in the end, having children is just as conscious a choice as anything else and should be seen as that in the workplace setting.

One element that might be lacking in Mills's basic argument is that the workplace can be a setting where individuals help one another out in times of need.  The modern workplace and a good work climate is one where people see the need to help one another in times of need. This helps to alleviate some of the burden of "I have to do more than ______."  A parent who needs to run off for an emergency can turn to their colleagues to help them out.  In turn, they help out their colleagues in their time of need.  One cannot mandate this in a work setting, but one would hope that some of Mills's fears are minimized in such a work climate. 

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