Some of your employees are caregivers on the job, but more also play that role at home. By knowing what support these people need, employers can retain employees and keep them healthier and more productive.
According to one survey, over 20% of employees are caregivers to a disabled or ill family member or friend. Nearly three-quarters of individuals said their caregiver responsibilities “significantly” affect their work life; and a similar number reported having to rearrange their work schedule, decrease hours, or take an unpaid leave at some point. Those caregiver for someone with emotional or mental health issues are more likely to require special accommodations.
Caregiving often causes employers to lose workers. Nearly 40% of caregivers say they have had to leave a job to attend to their loved one. One-third said they had to do this because their work didn’t provide flexible hours. Female caregivers particularly are impacted, and twice as many women as men have had to make alternate work arrangements, such as taking a less demanding job or giving up work altogether.
It behooves employers to address the needs of caregivers, as the aging population and trend toward keeping elders at home longer likely will increase the numbers of employees juggling work and care. Caregiving blogger Cori Carl suggests several ways employers can support family caregivers:
· If employee heath insurance doesn’t cover respite care or other caregiver support, consider adding it.
· Remove the distinction between vacation and sick/personal days to provide a block of paid time off for maximum flexibility.
· Consider offering flexible schedules and job-sharing to enable caregivers to balance work and personal responsibilities.
· Make sure employees are aware of their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
· Have clearly communicated policies about family leave/caregiving.
· Work with employees to enable them to take caregiving-related phone calls, attend medical appointments, etc.
· If a caregiver is stressed or depressed, help him or her get necessary counseling or other emotional/mental health support.
Compassion and empathy can go a long way, so make sure that all supervisors and department heads have some training/education about the challenges and needs of family caregivers. Help employees see your organization as family friendly and appreciative of those who make sacrifices to care for a loved one. Consider the possibility of community partnerships that may be mutually beneficial. For example, investigate area senior centers and other organizations that may be able to provide safe and free or reasonably priced adult day care, perhaps in exchange for some staff training or shared resources.