The Work-Family Conflict: An Essay on Employers, Men and Responsibility
24 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2008
This paper, prepared for a symposium held at the University of St. Thomas Law School, explores an issue that has been largely neglected in the work-family debate, namely why the burden should be on employers to change their practices rather than on men to change theirs. Many of the policy proposals designed to facilitate the balancing of work and family demands require employers to alter their practices by creating part-time work, providing paid leave, or devising ways to limit the penalties women face for taking extended leave. At the same time, the reluctance of men to change their behavior, which could go a significant way to altering the dynamics of work-family issues, has been largely ignored. This essay first explores the rationales for focusing on employers, including what is now defined as the business case for work-life benefits. The paper then critiques the various excuses that are typically raised for why men do not take more responsibility for work-family balance issues, including that (1) they are penalized to a greater extent than woman, that (2) it is economically rational for the burden to fall on women and that (3) men's behavior has changed significantly, none of which is empirically supported in the literature. Finally, I suggest that it is important to have a more theoretically targeted policy focus that is premised on workplace equality rather than trying to support all choices for all women.
Keywords: employment law, labor economics, gender
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