Employee management

Party of One: How to Treat Single Employees Fairly

April 19, 2018

As Canadians, we’ve come a long way from the days when we defined “family” as a mother, father, 2.5 kids, and a dog named Spot. While workplaces are making progress towards becoming more inclusive of the diverse relationships that make up today’s families, one demographic continues to be neglected: singles. Conversations about work–life balance typically revolve around employees balancing family responsibilities, such as childcare and eldercare, alongside their careers. Too often, we assume single employees are completely free of familial or other personal obligations, making them the obvious candidates to work the late shift or pick up the slack on weekends.

However, it’s worthwhile for employers to start considering the unique needs of this sizeable group. The latest census data reveals that more and more Canadians are living alone. While just 1.8% of the population was going solo in 1951, nearly 14% of Canadians were living alone in 2016—and that number has been increasing in recent years, according to Statistics Canada.

It’s important to keep in mind that this population includes both those younger employees who may (or may not) choose to cohabitate and have children at some point, as well as older employees who never married or had children, and those who have already raised their children and are now unmarried and living alone. In today’s multigenerational workplaces, you’ll find singles across the spectrum, from Generation Z and millennials to the baby boomers.

Family status and marital status (including those who are single) are prohibited grounds of discrimination in Canada. Yet, even in the absence of explicit discrimination, implicit biases and assumptions about single employees can sabotage engagement efforts, which can lead to increased turnover rates. After all, if an employee doesn’t feel like they’re a good cultural ‘fit’ with the organization, they’re more likely to be planning an exit.

Download our FREE Party of One Guide to help learn strategies to ensure single employees feel their needs are being supported within the workplace.

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