According to a Gallup poll, 1 out of 6 full- and part-time working
Americans are also a caregiver for a loved one. Typically, a caregiver is
an unpaid individual who assists an elderly or disabled family member,
relative or friend. It is estimated by the National Alliance for Caregiving
and AARP that 70 percent of working caregivers suffer work-related
difficulties due to their dual roles. Moreover, caregivers are forced to
miss an average of 6.6 days of work annually because of their caregiving
responsibilities. The annual cost of lost productivity due to caregiver
absenteeism amounts to more than $25 billion.
As the baby-boomer generation continues to age, it is likely that younger
employees will take on caregiver responsibilities. Of the 129 U.S. benefits
managers surveyed by the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) and
AARP, 66 percent agree that caregiving will become an important issue to
their workers over the next five years. Forty-five percent of these
managers say that caregiving benefits are one of their top 10 priorities
for health and benefits issues.
This article outlines the basics of caregiving benefits and provides best
practices to follow. It does not cover legalities of caregiver benefits.
Please consult a legal professional to obtain answers to questions related
to federal discrimination laws or caregiver benefits.
What do caregiver benefits look like?
Currently, caregiving benefits take many forms. Of the 129 employers
surveyed by the NEBGH and AARP, the following are policies that are
currently available to their workers:
- Paid leave exclusively for caregiving—11 percent
Paid leave that can be used for parental leave or caregiving leave—22
- Paid family medical leave—29 percent
Sick, vacation or personal days that can be used for self-care or to
care for another—81 percent
- Family medical leave application guidance—77 percent
- Flexible scheduling—57 percent
- Employees can “donate” time to their co-workers—21 percent
As demonstrated by this data, the majority of employers surveyed permit
employees to use their sick, vacation or personal days for caregiving, but
few have leave or benefits programs designed specifically for caregivers.
This survey found that employers cite absence of caregiving benchmarks and
best practices, a lack of financial resources and a lack of data to
identify caregivers, as reasons why they are not more caregiver-friendly.
Why should my organization consider offering caregiver benefits?
According to a survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and
UnitedHealthcare, a large number of employees may be “closet caregivers”
who fear that their boss or organization will think they’re not committed
to their job if they also provide care for a loved one. This stressor, in
addition to the stressors of working while taking care of an ill, elderly
or disabled loved one, can lead to employees experiencing chronic stress.
Chronic stress is not only bad for your employees and their well-being, but
also for your organization and its bottom line.
Other employees decide that they can no longer balance work and caregiving,
so they choose to leave their employer in order to care for a loved one.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs an average
of six to nine months’ salary to replace a salaried employee, which is a
significant cost for any employer.
Caregiving benefits advocates believe that if workplaces adopted policies
similar to the ones that were implemented to help out working mothers (such
as flexible scheduling policies and child care services), they would
experience increased productivity, lower health care costs, and improved
recruiting and retention efforts.
How can my organization implement caregiving benefits?
As previously mentioned, one of the most common caregiving benefits is
offering sick, vacation or personal days that can be used for self-care or
to care for another. In addition, your organization could create a benefit
program designed specifically for caregivers so that you can give employees
additional support in the form of extra time off or educational resources,
such as free counseling, handouts and discount programs for at-home
Consider also implementing a flexible scheduling policy at your
organization and train managers and supervisors on how they can support
employees who are caregivers. Again, be mindful that any caregiving
benefits you implement could be subject to federal laws. Please consult
with a legal professional for further advice on this topic.
As the baby-boomer generation continues to age, more and more workers will
become caregivers for elderly parents, in addition to the others who will
take on caregiving responsibilities for a number of different reasons.
Implementing caregiving benefits has been a step taken by many employers
across the country to help alleviate some of the stressors caregiving
employees face. By offering caregiving benefits at your organization, you
will not only establish a culture that is supportive of caregivers, but you
will also be giving your employees the tools they need to effectively
manage their dual responsibilities.
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