In our practice of helping people prevail over the setbacks encountered when dealing with work-related injuries and employment issues, our hardworking clients often find themselves in an unfamiliar position: not working. Factors such as one’s age and gender can significantly impact how long one might remain unemployed, how one uses his or her time while not working, and how it may affect one’s health and family relationships. The effects of unemployment can be particularly harsh on families with children.
A May 2014 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, on average, women 55 and older experience the highest rates of long-term unemployment and the longest spells of unemployment. Average duration of unemployment among women 55 and older was higher than men of the same age and higher than both men and women in other age groups. This study was cited in a June 2014 issue brief from the National Women’s Law Center called Long-Term Unemployment: Spotlight on Women and Families, written by Joan Entmacher, Katherine Gallagher Robbins and Lauren Frohlich.
Men and women also behave very differently when not working. A December 2014 New York Times, CBS News and Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that women spend 33 percent more time volunteering and 34 percent more time exercising while not employed. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to do both activities less when not working, compared to when working. Men are also more likely to engage in non-exercise leisure activities such as reading, watching TV and surfing the Internet.
For both men and women who have stopped working, the December 2014 survey found a reported decline in mental health. This decline was significantly higher in men, with 43 percent of men saying their mental health was worse, and 16 percent saying it was better. Only 29 percent of women claimed worse mental health, compared to 25 percent who claimed an improvement. According to the poll, 41 percent of men reported a decline in physical health, but women reported almost no difference in this area. One factor that this survey does not appear to consider, however, is the reason why an individual is not working. In my experience, those suffering from injuries that prevent them from returning to work would likely report different statistics concerning their health while not working.
Relationships with children are also influenced by unemployment, and this impact also differs among men and women. The December 2014 survey found that both men and women say they are spending more time with their children. However, only 22 percent of men reported an improvement in their relationships with their children. According to the poll, 60 percent of women reported an improvement. Women were also much more likely to report “family responsibilities” as a reason for not returning to work.
The New York Times, CBS News and Kaiser Family Foundation survey did not discuss the effect on children of their parents’ long-term unemployment. The National Women’s Law Center issue brief discusses this concern. Their research found that, among other things, single parents are more like to be unemployed long term (and more likely to be women), the poverty rate among families with a long-term unemployed parent was 35.3 percent as of May 2012, and unemployment and poverty hurt children by adversely affecting family dynamics and school performance. These effects can be long term, and can impact rates of college attendance and children’s future earnings. That is one of the many reasons that the firm supports Kids’ Chance of Nebraska, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to students who have a parent who either suffered an on-the-job fatality “or injuries that have had a significant adverse effect on family income,” according to the Kids’ Chance website. These $2,500 scholarships can help bridge the financial gap that occurs with an injured parent and can be used for “vocational/technical school, junior college, undergraduate or graduate programs.”
There are many reasons why an individual may find themselves in this unfortunate position, and our firm encounters it far too often among our clients who are injured at work or dealing with retaliation, discrimination or some other employment issue. We are experienced in helping our clients obtain benefits they are entitled to, such as workers’ compensation benefits, medical care, and unemployment benefits in order to help prevent the detrimental effects of not working.