Single people are sick of carrying working parents

OPINION

It is the newest form of discrimination hitting the great Australian workplace, yet it attracts a fraction of the critical attention the other 'isms' receive.

Singlism involves the stereotyping, stigmatising and discriminating of people who are, as the name would suggest, single, and who don't have children.

Much like ageism, racism and sexism before it, few topics get people in the workplace more fired up than an argy-bargy over who has it better or worse: those partnered or married and with offspring, or those without.

Parents will argue that juggling interstate work trips, delivering presentations to their bosses and attending early morning business meetings - because of sports practice, parent-teacher meetings and occasional technicolour yawns during school pick up and drop offs - is hard yakka.

More inclusive and understanding workplaces are great for working parents, but hard on singles without children. Picture: iStock
More inclusive and understanding workplaces are great for working parents, but hard on singles without children. Picture: iStock

They will also tell you that they are stoked with the way their employers have latched on to the concept of the family-friendly workplace, which allows them the flexibility to juggle their career ambitions with family commitments.

But with around 50 per cent of Australian workers living the single life - a number that is continuing to rise steadily - many singletons are now spitting the proverbial dummy and demanding a fair go, arguing they too are flat out and in need of some flexible working arrangements.

They will argue that even without carpet grubs to care for they lead equally busy lives filled with friendships, pets, community engagement, sporting endeavours, volunteer work and care of ageing parents and relatives.

They will also argue that personal commitments - or lack thereof - should bear little weight on one's workload or remuneration. In other words, singletons say that they're being given the cold shoulder when it comes to getting the same treatment as their partnered colleagues.

Many single people say they feel pressured to pick up the slack of parents who leave early or are unflexible with weekend work. Picture: iStock
Many single people say they feel pressured to pick up the slack of parents who leave early or are unflexible with weekend work. Picture: iStock

For those who dare to accuse any modern management team of singlism, it's likely that you'll be told you have more front than a Myer city store, and then told to nick off.

But singles will tell you that while they "get it" when it comes to colleagues with families needing extra support and flexibility, they vehemently object to the furphy doing the rounds in many workplaces that if you're single and childless you don't have an equally meaningful and demanding life, or that somehow your right to downtime is less deserving than those who have mouths to feed and bums to wipe.

Single people report feeling uncomfortable with bringing up this bias in the workplace, lest their bosses be parents or they sound arrogant with their claims. Picture: iStock
Single people report feeling uncomfortable with bringing up this bias in the workplace, lest their bosses be parents or they sound arrogant with their claims. Picture: iStock

Drag that line of thinking into the workplace, and you'll cotton on to why some singletons are starting to argue their point more forcefully.

Whether they're unpartnered, unmarried, separated, divorced or widowed - many singles believe they are increasingly being treated as corporate workhorses.

They're more likely to be asked to work outside regular working hours, and at weekends, they'll do more than their fair share of travel beyond the black stump, and when it comes to preferred and popular vacation dates, colleagues with kids will be given preferential treatment to allow working parents to have their "family time".

Yet singletons say they are unlikely to receive the same level of understanding and flexibility when they request some much-needed personal time-out from their bosses.

The fact that some people have children while others don’t shouldn’t be a determining factor in how work is distributed unless there are prior arrangements in place. Picture: iStock
The fact that some people have children while others don’t shouldn’t be a determining factor in how work is distributed unless there are prior arrangements in place. Picture: iStock

Even more disturbing, when it comes to dishing out dough, some singles believe there is a tendency for head honchos to give larger paychecks and salary increases to those workers with families - all based on their perception that singles are cashed up and have fewer overheads compared to colleagues with families.

While singlism is not perhaps in the same category as the most savage forms of discrimination, this form of 'ism' represents an increasingly serious challenge to Australian workplaces.

Single workers are a critical and growing part of the workforce. It's time to seriously consider their needs and work towards delivering positive outcomes for all employees. Ultimately, it will produce a more loyal, committed and productive environment and confirm Australian workplaces' pursuit of a fair go for all.

Professor Gary Martin is the Australian Workologist and national thought leader on workplace culture.



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