People are living longer with more access to medical care and innovations and progress in medicine. This has resulted in many relatives and friends being thrust into the role of caregivers impacting their personal and professional lives. What can employers do to see that this workforce is given maximum benefits to enact the dual role efficiently and comfortably?
There are very few people who have at some point in their lives not taken up a caregiver’s role. The responsibility can range from just shopping for essentials to arranging doctor’s appointments, providing transportation, taking care of finances and medicines or even a full-fledged role of assisting in their daily tasks.
In the U.S. today, one in six employees is a caregiver for a relative or friend and spends on average of more than 20 hours a week providing some kind of care. Another survey says 20 percent of the population is engaged in some form of caregiving. Millennials currently make up 25% of caregivers, and given greater longevity among aging and chronically ill family members this number is bound to grow. Women are typically thought of as the caregivers in society, but men now constitute 40% of family caregivers.
Employee benefits for Caregivers
People have a longer lifespan with more access to medical care and innovations and progress in medicine. So with time more people will be forced to take up the caregiver’s role. And with the healthcare system overly stretched and social security benefits being reconsidered by almost all governments, family members will have to get more involved.
Hence, more people are going to find themselves balancing dual roles of work-life and caregiver. That is why a caregiver benefit is essential in an organization as all employees can find value in it.
Seeing how this role is going to be a big part of work-life, employers need to reconsider their human resource policies to work in this burgeoning need.
Caregiving leads to frequent absenteeism, sudden emergency calls, distraction at work, dedicating some hours arranging pickups, scheduling appointments and more.
In addition to the impact of absenteeism and presentism on an employer, the stress and anxiety that accompany caregiving and a caregiver’s balancing act can take a toll personally and professionally on employees. Added to this is the fear of being considered not professional at work and not committed to the job.
The stress and anxiety can manifest in the caregivers falling sick themselves and in turn higher healthcare costs for the employers. When considering medical costs, turnover, and lost productivity related to absenteeism and presentism, caregiving can cost organizations up to $33.6 billion per year.
This is a vicious cycle where employees if they do not get enough support, drop out of the workforce forcing employers to hire more talent and pay for more training.
With the incidences of caregiving bound to increase in the future, employers have a unique opportunity to support employees in this task in a way that can benefit them too in the form of an engaged and productive workforce, a competitive edge in retaining and recruiting employees, a reduction in healthcare costs and an increase in employee loyalty.
Here are some ways that the HR staff and managers can oversee programs and policies that can benefit the workers who are caregivers.
Foremost, the company has to have a culture of openness and employee-centric. If a worker feels that his requests for a more flexible work accommodation will be looked as an over-the-top request, then s/he will not be confident enough to come forward.
It’s critical that organizations reinforce and frequently review recommendations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to ensure compliance with nondiscrimination guidelines.
Employers should ensure that all managers are aware of the company policies regarding flex-timing, leave polices and benefits that employees can access and that the management is open to mutually beneficial arrangements.
“We are a business completely reliant on our people — doing our best and doing right by our people to support them throughout their entire life journey, whether it’s bringing a child into the world or caring for an aging parent or caregiving for an unfortunate event — a sick child, sick brother or sister. We believe it’s good business to support our people and be there for them throughout their life journey, regardless of what the need is,” said Jennifer Fisher, National Managing Director for Well-being, Deloitte LLP.
Paid Time off (PTO) Program: Many companies have some combination of sick time, vacation or family leave time that can be used when employees need to care for a family member. Others might provide assistance in applying for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off.
The critical fact here is that employees are provided with some form of paid leave while they are providing care. According to the National Compensation Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 14% of civilian workers in the U.S. were able to access paid family leave in 2016. Only 13% of employees in the private sector had paid family leave.
There are certain sectors that do pay a decent compensation. According to 2016 numbers, in the finance and insurance industries, 37% of workers have access to some form of paid family leave. But overall,, 63% of those in the private sector industries still found themselves without a paid family leave option
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): EAPs are typically offered by an organization as part of their employee benefits program. These can be in the form of assisted facilities for children on the premises, personal and family counseling, crisis intervention, access to corporate concessional programs, financial loans, and other assistance to help employees better balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
“We are working toward implementing a caregiver platform. The platform will act as a single entry point for employees to connect with services and resources from specialized providers. These services are focused on childcare, eldercare, special needs parenting, college coaching and back-up care. We consider the platform a cross-generational benefit, as caregiving is an issue that cuts across all generations” said a benefits specialist working in an energy utility company.
Flexible Scheduling and Telecommuting: Offering opportunities for employees to adjust their schedule or work from home as needed can alleviate a lot of the pressure for caregivers. The concentration on to get the work done rather than how and where it’s done can reassure employees that they will not be assessed on time taken off but on their inputs.
Healthcare Advocacy: This can translate into offering periodic assistance of a healthcare expert who can assist with complex medical conditions, arrange for doctor references, locate nursing homes, assist with Medicare, and interact with insurance and providers. This can be of immense help and save time and anxiety for workers.
The Family Medical Leave Act
It allows workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period, is available only to individuals who work for a company that has 50 or more employees. A person considering FMLA must have been employed at the company for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours in the period prior to an FMLA leave.
According to a 2013 Department of Labor report, only around 60% of employees meet the FMLA criteria, About 16% of eligible employees reported using FMLA, with 57% of those employees taking leave for their own illness, 22% for reasons relating to a new child, and almost 20% to care for an ill parent, spouse or child.
States can enact their own Paid family leave laws. California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington, and in the District of Columbia have some laws in effect and there are legislations being considered in other states do implement the same.
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