American Express has become the latest company to announce a generous paid leave policy for parents. It will be giving all parents 20 weeks of paid leave when a child is born, plus another six to eight weeks for women who give birth and require medical leave. The media, of course, is hailing such announcements as a great breakthrough. But where does it leave childless people and those whose offspring are now adults? In most cases, it leaves them on the outside looking in. In other words, they get nothing out of that deal. Companies boast about their anti-discrimination polices, but they openly discriminate against people are who are not interested in rearing children.
The problem is not that they give parents paid time off from work. It’s that childless people generally get no equal benefit. So, in effect, they are paying for those additional benefits that parents get. Money spent on special benefits for parents is money that can’t be spent on things such as bonuses, raises, and 401(k) matches, which benefit all employees, regardless of their parental status. Companies that provide special benefits to parents should provide a separate but equally valuable benefit to childless people. This could come in the form of additional vacation days, for example. But it will never happen until childless workers begin to stand up for themselves. They could begin by refusing to work for any company that provides special benefits to parents without an equal benefit to them.