Have you ever been on public transport when there’s been a screaming baby or child on board? There tends to be three types of people: those who tut or get agitated, those who turn a blind eye, and those who coo and appreciate the presence of such a cute little sproglet. Now, can you imagine that same small human in your place of work?
Many years ago, during the industrial revolution, mothers used to work alongside their babies and toddlers. They would simply lay them down in a basket beside them to sleep or place them in hand-made hammocks. Similarly, nail-making or button-making mums would place their baby in a cot made from large, used egg cartons or sawdust tubs. Taking your infant to work was a legal and customary right for many female workers in the 19th-century. Due largely to cost, childcare was simply not an option for many families during this period. Instead, mothers would have to juggle their baby’s needs – such as feeding – around their work responsibilities.
Fast forward to the 21st century and children in the workplace is largely seen as an abnormality. If a colleague turned up to the office one day with their little bundle of joy, the move would be frowned upon to say the least. Childcare has come a long way since the 19th century – past the awful working conditions of the Victorian era and abolition of child labour in the latter part of the 1900s – but some feel we still haven’t got it quite right just yet.
New parents in the 21st century are often forced to turn to nurseries, crèches and/or relatives if: a) they can’t afford to have the time off work or b) their maternity and/or paternity leave comes to an end. Today, it is the norm for parents to be out working whilst their offspring are being cared for by somebody else. The Guardian brought up this topic recently, publishing an article which asked the question: “why should work be a baby-free zone?” The article states that, as a policy issue, childcare is only discussed in terms of making it more affordable. Apparently, both parties (in the UK) fail to address whether parents should be out working whilst their kids are being cared for by others in the first place.
Parents who own their own small/family business tend to have a little more wiggle room when it comes to children in the workplace. You’ve probably seen kids darting around or causing havoc behind the counter in your corner shop, for example. Babysitters, too, sometimes have the ‘luxury’ of being able to care for their own children at the same time as another’s. But what about those who do not have such options?
What Does the Future Hold for Children in the Workplace?
In the US, there are many businesses that provide their employees with ‘babies-at-work’ programmes. Some of the citizens even celebrate a ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day’ which next takes place on Thursday, 26th April 2018. Comparatively in the UK, we are said to have much stronger parental leave entitlements, which makes the need for these types of arrangements “arguably less urgently needed,” reported the Guardian.
Admittedly, there are some working environments that wouldn’t be safe for children – such as building sites or hospitals – but having a child in an open-plan office, for example, will give parents facing difficult decisions (such as less income in the first year of their child’s life) more choice, and likely, more happiness, too. What’s a little extra noise between colleagues after all? And who knows, that little creature’s crying may just drown out the endless chatter from the marketing team.
But before you cancel the crèche contract, it’s worth noting that it’s not quite that simple. We’d love to just click our fingers and voila, children in the workplace is available to all. But such matters have to be dealt with sensitively. Not all employees would be so open to working around babies or young children. Yes, you’d certainly have those who’d crowd around the dear darling for a cuddle (or three), but noise, potential mess and distraction aren’t the only factors in this equation. Some employees are facing or have faced infertility issues and therefore may be particularly sensitive to the presence of a new born or young child. HR Magazine suggest that if businesses are to allow staff to bring in their kids, they ought to have a children in the workplace policy. Such a policy would take the practical and emotional issues of both parties into consideration. Business owners have to remember that it’s their responsibility to create a safe environment for all their staff which includes looking after their mental health and more.
Weighing up such decisions is a tough one for any business owner or HR team. What’s your opinion on children in the workplace? It’s a tough one isn’t it? We suppose it depends on the shoes you’re wearing. New parents may be delighted with the opportunity to spend more time with their littlen, but colleagues trying to work amongst wailing and flying food may struggle to be so accepting.
Would you like to own your own business one day and be able to make such calls yourself? If so, a Business HND could be just what you need to get your career started. Contact HND Insider today for more information.
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