A former Minister of Family is calling on employers to play a greater role in improving the productivity of their workers. And one of the ways that Esther Byer-Suckoo suggests they do this, is by catering more to the employee’s situations, especially those of single parents.
Addressing a symposium on Gender In Urban Planning made up of stakeholders, including the Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Patricia Hackett–Codrington, Byer-Suckoo, who is the current Minister of Labour, said it was important that single parent households, especially, be afforded opportunities of increased access to child care assistance to the extent that they could continue to take care of the responsibility of raising their children while still being highly productive.
This assistance, she said, could be in the form of informational and referral services, the provision of on site child care facilities, negotiated discounts
with child care providers or child care subsidies.
“Employers would be encouraged to recognise the benefits that such arrangements could bring in improving employee morale and productivity. We know the challenge in workplaces around 3 o’clock in the afternoon when it is time to pick up the children from school and then what do you do with them?
“Do you bring them back to the offices? Is the office a place that allows the children to come? Or do you have to rush back home to carry them for somebody to look after them for a little bit and then try to get back into the office to put in some quality work before you leave at four or 4:30?” asked Byer–Suckoo.
She noted that this dilemma was what faced by many single parents and by the time they returned from collecting their children they were really in no condition to contribute anything for the remainder of the day.
“So effectively you have stopped contributing . . . you may come back in the office but you don’t really settle in and do much after that. So to allow an arrangement that would afford a worker to either bring that child back to work, or to work in such a way that the hours would allow them [to] work around that time, that would allow for greater productivity,” she said.
“It really bothered me when we built all of these buildings for example in Warrens and we did not see the child care facility. We have a lot of workers in these buildings . . . and there is no facility that could have been incorporated into these buildings for child care, that would have made life so much easier, but then again that is that gender lens that we have to use in urban planning,” she said, revealing that she was currently in discussions at the level of Cabinet about this situation.
Today’s symposium’s held at the Boabab Towers in Warrens, St Michael discussed topics such as: Gender And The Sexual Divison Of Labour, Discussions On Labour, Employment And Education as well as Gender And Access To Housing And Finance.
Byer-Suckoo admitted that Barbados had not yet achieved true gender equality but she stated it was certainly possible for the island to do so. She said starting in the workplace, her ministry would, though it may be an uphill battle, sensitise Barbadians on the role of gender, its need and importance.
“By mainstreaming gender in urban development and areas such as employment, education and housing, we insure that families are improved and continue to improve for generations and that provety is eradicated. This is particularly important in a society that relies so heavily on women to raise families and provide single handedly for them.
“Forty-seven per cent of households are headed by women and so it is important that we look at such policies in urban development . . . through that gender lens and ensure that there is gender equality.
“It is important that our policies for hiring, rehiring, for training, for social services, for healthcare and other services take note specifically of their impact on gender. Gender mainstreaming in employment is the use of approaches and tools to ensure that labour related development activities and the distribution of resources benefit males and females equally, not just in terms of the numbers of individuals being trained or hired, but also in terms of the quality and conditions of work for those persons.
“There is a gap in wages and opportunities for promotions for our women in Barbados [and] gender mainstreaming and the policies that are involved would seek to ensure that we eradicate that gap and that men and women have equal opportunities not only to be hired but to have similar wages,” Byer-Suckoo added.