Sample Coursework Paper on Career and Family Life – Case 9.5: Swedish Daddies

Currently, the United States is the only industrialized country that does not offer paid maternity leave to its working parents. This has proved an inconveniencing problem for new parents who often have to choose between career and family. While America provides for only a 12-week unpaid leave, other countries including Sweden and Germany are already giving more than three months of maternal and paternal leaves. The following is a look at the balance between family and career in America with contrast to Case 9.5: Swedish Daddies.

Q1: According to business analysts, the US has been unable to offer its citizens a balance between career and family life; but what is the appropriate balance between the two? Different people will vary in opinions on what can pass as an appropriate balance. In my view, US should offer at least three months paid maternity leave for the mother and at least one month paid paternity for the father. Three months are, in my opinion, enough for the new mother to recuperate from the delivery ordeal as well as bond with her newborn. For the father, one month enables him to cater for both the mom and the newborn, bearing in mind that one month from delivery is the sensitive period for the two. In addition, paid leave for both parents will ensure that they jointly and actively take the responsibility of raising the family. This joint responsibility makes the family happy and more cohesive.

In addition to paid leaves, corporations should make arrangements for the new mothers to be attending to babies less than one year old for at least one hour during the day even after the end of their maternity leave. These arrangements could include establishing child care units at the work place, from where mothers with children under one year could be seeing their babies. Alternatively, companies should formally allow the new moms to go home in the middle of the day to tend to their children. Moreover, companies should also be flexible in their working schedule to accommodate parents whose children have special need.  Creating a balance between families is necessary so that no parent will be required to choose between career and family since the two are equally important to human life.

If the above-described form of arrangement was accorded, America would be a haven for career and family parents. However, are the American corporate settings ready for such an arrangement? Firstly, it should be known that my proposed arrangement is possible. Other countries, including Sweden, Germany and Iceland are already implanting family-career balance programs, some that are even more favorable that what I’m seeking from the US corporations. If their programs are working without a significant cost to the economy, then it can work in America as well. However, I do not think the corporate American mindset is conducive for my proposed plan.

America has, for over the years, adopted a culture of fixed eight working hours a day. For many employers, their employees have to meet these minimum working hours to earn their pay. This culture is the first enemy to an effective balanced career-family plan.  Secondly, America has plenty of skilled labor force. Therefore, employers can always find a replacement for the employers who choose family over career. Availability of skilled labor makes employers reluctant to incur expense in paid leave since they do not find the need to retain employees. Finally, the greedy nature of businesses in America makes it unconducive for a balanced family-career plan.  American corporates are keen on recording huge profits at the expense of their employee’s well-being.

Q2: In a country like Sweden, paid maternity leave is compulsory, with the government shouldering part of the corporate’s burden to offer paid leave. Should the US government follow suit? In my opinion, the government enacts provisions to enforce paid maternity leave; however, I do not find it necessary for the government to assist privately-owned companies to do so. Firstly, the government need to enforce a paid maternity leave because most of the modern corporates have proved that they cannot provide paid leave on their free will. For instance, only a handful number of companies provide paid leave today, while most of them do not even entertain the compulsory unpaid leave (Waldfogel, 2001). In addition, the government also enhances the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to seal the several loopholes that have often emerged in its implementation. For instance, the act requires 12 weeks paid leave only to the companies with 50 or more employees; what about smaller companies? In addition, studies have shown that unscrupulous employers regularly dismiss employees who are likely to claim flexible terms under FMLA to evade providing them with paid leave (Magid, 2001). Therefore, the law should also be keen in protecting parents, especially mothers against discrimination on the basis of family responsibility.

Suppose the government enforces paid maternity leave; should it share the burden with the corporates? In my opinion, the government need not share such burden. Firstly, an employee is an asset of the company. Any benefits accorded to an employee are similar to the services given to assets like motor vehicles and machines. The well-being of an employee is an added advantage to the company since it increases their productivity. The law is put in place to protect employees because, unlike machines and other immovable assets, employees are resources with added rights by virtue of being human. For this reason, corporates should meet the entire burden of paid leave as a cost of maintaining their resources.

In addition to compulsory paid maternity, I suggest that the US should require companies to provide paid paternity leave as well. However, the paternity leave may be shorter than the maternity leave. As described above, the input of a father is crucial in the first few days of the child’s life. Medics have made it known how draining the child birth process is and thus the mother needs both physical and psychological support. As mothers and psychologists concur, this support is impeccably effective when rendered the child’s father. In addition, most American men are monogamous and one woman can only give birth no more than once a year. Moreover, Americans are known to prefer small-sized families, with the Central Intelligence Agency estimates that American women give birth to three children on average (cia.gov). Therefore, the cumulative number of leave days that both parents can require throughout their career time is minimal.

Q3: As hinted in my preferred career-family balance plan, I support that specialized arrangements be made to accommodate workers undertaking both career and raising up families. Firstly, specialized arrangements, such as establishing child care units at work place give the worker comfort of mind while at the workplace. The worker is therefore likely to be more productive since they are relieved of the worry over child care which would otherwise hinder their concentration on the task at hand. In addition, establishing specialized arrangement lowers the Company’s rate of staff turnover as well as making it more attractive to skilled employees owing to the convenience guaranteed by family-career balance programs.

There are various steps and options that a company may take in accommodating parental needs more effectively. Firstly, the large companies may opt to open a daycare center within its premises. Depending on the number of employees, and more specifically, the number of those eligible for special family arrangement, the center may be exclusive to staff’s children. Alternatively, the center may be open to serve the public at a fee. A good example is the Campbell Soup Company that runs an on-site day care that subsidizes tuition fees for its employees’ children. Such on-site child care services can also operate for 24 hours for the companies with dual shift working schedule.

Aside from the on-site day care programs, a company may also partner with day care service providers or schools to establish a unit near the workplace. For instance, the IBM Company, in partnership with Child Care Resource established a day care facility next to IBM’s factory.  They may also sign contracts with already established day care units to accept employees’ children at favorable terms. In either of the options, however, the company needs to consider the specific needs of its employees versus the cost of each option so as to identify the most efficient alternative.

Q4: For many American Corporations, giving employees a flexible family-career balance appears like just extending a favor to win the employees’ loyalty (Waldfogel, 2001). However, it is part of the company’s responsibility to provide a conducive working environment. The US constitution acknowledges the employees’ rights to flexible working schedule that accommodates family responsibilities. For instance, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires companies with fifteen or more workers to treat pregnancy and childbirth as temporary disabilities (Magid, 2001). For this reason, employers should offer necessary facilitation as would be offered to people living with disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some of the adjustments that should be made to accommodate those affected by pregnancy and childbearing includes flexible working hours and time for medical appointments. In addition to the PDA, the Family Medical Leave Act also obligates corporate to provide balance family-career schedule by mandating a 12 weeks unpaid leave (Waldfogel, 2001). For this reason, providing balanced career-family goes beyond the social responsibility of a corporate since it is an obligation owed to the employees.

In conclusion, a balance between career and family life is a significant requirement in the modern American society based on the fact that the majority of workers are in the family raising age bracket. Although America has been at the forefront in safeguarding human rights, it has peculiarly lagged behind in safeguarding a balanced family-career life. As a result, several Americans have had to give up either family care or career to pursue the other. For this reason, America is losing some of the talented and skilled workforce to family responsibilities, something that should not be happening in the 21st century. It is, therefore, necessary for the government to enact legislations that create a balance between career and family lives.

References
Case 9.5: Swedish Daddies

Central Intelligence Agency. (n.dat) Word Factbook. Library.

Waldfogel, J. (2001). Family and medical leave: Evidence from the 2000 surveys. Monthly Lab. Rev., 124, 17.

Magid, J. M. (2001). Pregnant with Possibility: Re-examining the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. American Business Law Journal, 38(4), 819-856