Politics.co.uk editor Ian Dunt did himself a favour, as well as me, when he stepped up to fill a gap on the Cost of Living Crisis panel. You see, I now follow his twitter feed and am probably not the only new follower he earned that day. That said, I will not let the exchange of favours stop me being objective about what I read. Today I’m reading this article by contributor Adam Bienkov:
Miliband announced that parental leave will be doubled to four weeks, with pay raised to minimum wage under a Labour government.
These fairly modest plans to improve the care of newborn babies were immediately attacked by CEOs as “anti business”.
The director of the British Chamber of Commerce, released a statement saying that the plans “raised the spectre” of fathers taking more time off to spend with their newborns.
Just imagine for a second the mentality it takes to describe the prospect of fathers spending slightly longer with their newborns as a “spectre” which needs to be slain.
This is a mentality which has infected many big corporations. A mentality which sees every government measure designed to help families as a threat and every day a parent spends with their loved ones as a loss.
This is a mentality which is widely accepted at the top levels of many corporations, but which is total anathema to the vast majority of working people.
Well… I call bullshit on that. Accountability and responsibility are as much a value for the working class as any other – if not more so.
As a new parent myself I know how valuable time spent at home is. Sometimes there seems to be no limit to the attention a child demands and two weeks spent at home supporting mum, in the traditional arrangement, is two weeks of relative sanity for her. Sleep, a clean environment, a moment to yourself are all easier to come by with more people on hand to deal with Baby. This is not lost on fathers. They do not escape to the office permanently without any consequences, their lives are turned upside down too. This is all to say that yes, obviously, more parental leave for people of either gender is a good thing for them.
But your good thing is not your boss’ problem. Most bosses will want to help, they have empathy and a stake in you as an employee, but they did not decide to have your child. You did. It’s your responsibility to take care of your kid and if that means you want more time at home then that is something you have to be accountable for. Your boss’ stake in you means they will often be generous. A boss that declines to pay for time spent away might be said to be harsh, or short termist, or whatever, but we cannot reasonably say that he is being unjust. Justice ought not to have an opinion, unless a contract was broken. Business owners are responsible for their businesses and the contracts the business has entered into, including the salaries of other employees. Your boss is not responsible for your decision to have a child.
Just imagine the mentality of someone who always expects someone else to be responsible. When that person’s child is screaming at 4am will he go to his boss to decide if it is better for him to sleep on his front, where he is comfortable? Or to decide whether he can handle carrot sticks without gagging? Or when he is ready to play on the swings? Who is wrong if any of those decisions goes the wrong way? What will that person do if he was in charge of the country?
Would that person trust that people use their money for the best? Would they expect the best outcome for all to be negotiated between the people involved, or decided centrally? Would they leave people free to experiment and balance out competing concerns in a way that works for them? Or would they impose one way of doing things from the top and push the costs down? That is the spectre that haunts free enterprise.
Image © Rutger Tuller