Action Man works in Corporate Australia. You know, the type of company in the Top 10 market capitalisation in the ASX200. The type of company whose main ethos is "make a lot of money, and then some". The type of company that likes to position itself about how cutting edge it is when it comes to dealing with its employees (because they are so valuable). The type of company that introduces "family friendly workplace" policies to this end and trumpets them in annual reports.
Action Man's company has a policy in place where you can apply for 8 weeks' leave a year, 4 unpaid. Sounds great, doesn't it? If you can manage on 4 weeks' less pay a year, but get extra time with the kids, the aged parents etc, who wouldn't go for it? What they neglect to say, though, is that this policy is window dressing only. It is merely there to give the illusion that they care about their employees, their families and their communities. Because if you have the temerity to actually apply for such, be prepared for disappointment.
This is what Action Man found when he mentioned to his boss that he planned to apply for the "8 weeks' leave a year" under the scheme. The reply? Don't even bother, you won't get it. Further, the mere fact of applying would count as a "black mark" in the inevitable yearly performance reckoning.
Meanwhile AM's colleague works full-time and is the mother of a chronically sick child who is on a constant schedule of medical appointments. The scheme sounds perfect for her, right? A no-brainer, surely, on compassionate grounds if nothing else. Wrong. She was accepted into the scheme, but only after fierce lobbying on her part, the sort of lobbying that doesn't win you friends and allies.
If someone like her has to fight so hard to take advantage of a scheme that is ostensibly available to anyone for the asking, and if someone is advised not to apply for the scheme if they don't want their performance rating to be negatively affected, who the heck is it for?
The promise of family friendly workplaces has been around for yonks - since the early 1990s at least in the days when I worked in Personnel. And yet, while major companies seem to have made leaps in writing policies that gain them kudos from the Office for the Status of Women and others, family friendly workplaces seem to remain straw men, especially in the biggest companies.
The attitude of those who run these companies seems to be that employees are there to work all the hours that are available - there's always another billion to be made after all. As for all that touchy-feely family stuff, that's only so they can run smiley pictures of employees in the annual report with a straight face. (As for their own families, well, I guess they make enough to palm everything onto the nanny).
I'd like to be wrong on this. Am I too cynical? I'd like to find out that AM finds himself in a dimly lit corner of corporate world, and that in fact family friendly workplaces exist.
Anyone out there know of a company that is truly family friendly? That has policies and has been known to have employees take advantage of them without having to go to war for the right? I'd love to hear from you!