The needs of employees who are also serving as family caregivers for aging loved ones are not adequately addressed by the vast majority of employers. Today’s employers will need to adopt creative solutions to address the issues, so they can curb costs, and retain quality employees.
In Eldercare Facts Employers Need to Know, we addressed the issues of: 1) the growing eldercare need and 2) the emotional and financial burdens on both employees and employers. This post offers the following solutions to those problems:
- Addressing Caregiving Needs Openly
- Creating a Culture of Work-Life Integration
- Understanding Federal and State Mandates That Support Caregiving
- Offering Benefit Plans That Help Retain Employees
- Educating Managers to Understand and Support a Caring Culture
Address Caregiving Needs Openly
Currently, employers and employees are not having conversations about caregiving needs. Approximately 44% of employees do not tell their employer that they have additional caregiving responsibilities—sometimes out of fear that it will impact their careers. The data also revealed that those with more organizational “power” often had the most anxiety about their employment and, similar to others providing care, experienced caregiver stress.
Just as employees are reluctant to talk about the issues, 52% of employers are remaining silent about caregiving. The reasons they were not tracking data varied—with the largest group (26%) wrongly assuming there is no reason to track caregiving data. Perhaps most stunning, 5% reported that that they didn’t care about their employees.
Certainly, understanding the extent of the issue is an important first step in addressing the need for elder care services.
Create a Caring Culture of Work-Life Integration
According to a Harvard Business School report, the “Caring Company,” the single greatest change that employers can make to help retain employees and reduce costs associated with caregiving is to create a culture where caregiving is supported and encouraged.
As far back as 2011, Gallup was recommending caregiver benefits for employees based on its research. The recommendations were divided by business size as follows:
Small Businesses (fewer than 1,000 employees)
- Access or recommendation to a relevant network or support group
- “Ask a health counselor” access that would provide more information about the condition of the person who is receiving care
Medium-Size Businesses (1,000 to 9,999 employees)
- An employee assistance program (EAP) to cope with emotional distress resulting from caregiving
- Unpaid vacation or leave to be used for caregiving activities
Large Businesses (10,000+ employees)
- Counselors or others who provide information, referrals, or advice about assisted living and nursing home options and how to pay for it
- An EAP to cope with emotional distress resulting from caregiving
While publications such as Inc., Conscious Company, Chief Executive, and HR Advisor Group write extensively about “work life integration,” “family-first,” and “family-oriented” workplaces, the concept is still in its infancy at many companies.
Topping the list in Forbes highest-rated companies with the best work-life balance were Starbucks, Intuit, Overstock.com, Expedia, and Costco. However, even in the top 25 companies, 34% of employees were burned out and 20% were not satisfied with work-life balance.
Less well-known companies such as Swiss Tech offer flex time options and shift accommodations for its employees. Some progressive companies, such as Dropbox, Glassdoor, GE, Stitch Fix and others offer unlimited vacation. Less widely known, Explorance has removed the threat of layoffs and also does not limit time off. Its CEO writes: “We are only as strong at work, as we are good at home.”
According to the “Caring Company,” fostering a culture of care requires management to develop employee trust by consistently:
- Creating an attitude of openness regarding caregiving responsibilities
- Reassuring individuals and demonstrating commitment to caregivers
- Developing “a visible, systematic plan to help employees balance their personal and professional lives”
- Celebrating and showcasing success stories
Understand Federal and State Mandates That Support Caregiving
The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) supports employees who have been with a company for at least 12 months and worked at least 1250 hours during the period prior to their leave. The law stipulates that companies with 50 or more employees must allow workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. What’s more, the employee must be able to return to his original job or an equivalent job. Although the majority of those who take FMLA do so to take care of their own qualifying health issues, 18% of employees reported using FMLA to care for an ill parent, spouse, or child.
No federal laws mandate paid family leave.
State laws are complicated and mandate varying degrees of paid and unpaid family leave. In 2016, 14% of US civilian workers had access to paid family leave. As of 2019, 11 states (and Washington, D.C.) had paid sick leave laws. These include Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
As an employer, it is important for you to know the laws that govern all states where your employees work. This will ensure that your company policies and your management practices are within the dictates of the law.
Offer Employee Benefit Plans That Support Caregiving and Retain Employees
In addition to unpaid and paid leave time, much can be done to support workers on the job. Some employers offer their workers benefits that support their roles as caregivers. Flexible work hours, telecommuting, reduced hours, or job sharing are often offered to employees. Likewise, use of vacation or personal time is common.
However, these benefits often do not go far enough. Employees may underutilize these traditional benefits due to fear and stigmatization and/or lack of awareness. As a result, employers wrongly assume that there is no need for such solutions.
As our employer infographic on caregiving demonstrates, there is often a disconnect between what employees find helpful and what employers are offering. For example, 78% of employees reported that a caregiving referral service was very important for employee retention, but only 38% of employers believed that caregiver referrals would help with retention.
Clearly, additional benefits solutions are needed.
Employees who are caregivers can also benefit from counseling services, caregiving referrals, seminars on caregiving topics, support groups, and informational resources.
Caregiving benefits solutions companies, such as Homethrive, offer employers creative solutions to integrate work and family life. Homethrive offers assigned Care Guides, dedicated women and men with master’s degrees in social work (MSWs), who provide ongoing advice and coaching to employees.
Depending on the level of support that companies and employees choose, Care Guides can also coordinate supportive services such as transportation or home care, as needed. Additionally, Homethrive offers numerous resources for caregivers along with supportive technology, medication and appointment reminders, a 24/7 helpline, problem-solving recommendations, and more.
Educate Managers About Caregiving and Employee Benefits
Not only must the company’s culture publicize these benefits, but managers, supervisors, and other company leaders need to be supportive of employees who are availing themselves of these benefits.
It’s important for managers to:
- Receive training and appreciate the pressures of caregiving on the employee
- Understand state and federal laws that support caregiving
- Be aware of and sensitive to caregivers in their business units
- Understand and explain the benefits that the company offers to caregivers
- Commit to supporting employees in their caregiver roles
- Recognize caregiver’s career successes
As discussed in Eldercare Facts Employers Need to Know, employers will have an increasingly difficult time recruiting and retaining high-quality employees as the ratio of working Americans to retirees drops. Employers can anticipate that competition for their best and brightest employees will be fierce. What’s more, with the growing senior population, more and more employees will need to help family members with unpaid eldercare services. Without intervention, these trends will continue to impact employees and employers for years to come.
By implementing innovative solutions, your company can create a caring culture to attract and maintain valuable employees. By fostering this culture and providing appropriate support, you can minimize the business costs of caregiving. Similar to other cutting-edge companies, such as Neal Gerber Eisenberg, your organization can begin to solve the family caregiver dilemma by:
- Tracking and being aware of the demands of caregiving on employees
- Creating a culture that is open and honest about caregiving
- Educating managers regarding the challenges and stress of caregiving
- Ensuring managers understand and support employee benefits, laws, and company policies
- Offering employees benefits, resources, and support through benefit companies, such as Homethrive
These solutions can help decrease employee stress, illness, and associated healthcare costs. They can also decrease turnover, increase productivity, and reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism.
Create a Caring Culture: Contact a Homethrive Representative