Speaking Up for Fair Scheduling

Cyndie Courtney, DVM, The Jerk Researcher, Lawrence, Kansas

ArticleApril 20243 min read
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Dear Second Opinion,

I’ve been struggling with some uncomfortable feelings around the culture and scheduling at my clinic. I work in a small animal practice and our team is made up of both parents and nonparents. I am child-free.

I understand being a parent means work schedules sometimes need to be adjusted at the last minute, but it feels as though there is an unspoken assumption that because I do not have children, I am automatically more available to fill in.

I especially feel this around the holidays when my coworkers with children request time off to spend time with their families. I would also like to have the time off, but I feel as though parents are prioritized. I am not always comfortable asserting that my free time is just as important. Technically, my schedule is more flexible, but that doesn’t mean I always want to step in and work when my colleagues take time off.

I am starting to feel resentful, and I’m unsure how to address this.

-Struggling to Speak Up

Dear Struggling to Speak Up,

Wishing to be respected and treated fairly at work is completely reasonable. The situation you’ve described is common, despite most professionals agreeing that parents and nonparents should be treated equally.1

Colleagues should empathize with each other's needs and provide flexibility and support where possible, but a healthy work-life balance should not be sacrificed.

Consider what fairness means to you. Would you like the same flexibility as your colleagues? It can help to talk to colleagues and practice management about what may constitute the need or desire for a flexible schedule outside of parenthood; however, it should be noted that parents who request additional flexibility often suffer professional consequences.2,3 Ask your management team to consider implementing reason-neutral approaches to time off requests.4 These policies hold everyone to the same standards (eg, how requests are prioritized, how much notice is required, maximum amount of time off that may be requested, consequences for tardiness) and do not require disclosure of the reason for the time off request, which helps protect both parents and nonparents. It’s important to note that if employees request Family Medical Act leave, employers are still entitled to certain disclosures.5

Alternatively, is your priority to be appreciated and adequately compensated for covering for coworkers? Appreciation may be gained by simply asking for it; however, asking for more compensation may be more complicated. Consider suggesting management offer flexible benefits packages that allow team members to select their desired benefits (eg, finances vs flexibility).6

Thank you for trying to find solutions and reminding us of the importance of balancing our work and personal lives.


Cyndie Courtney, DVM