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Caregiver benefits in the workplace

Caregiver benefits in the workplace

By Kristen Cifolelli, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

As the population continues to age, more and more adults are finding themselves in caregiving situations.  By the year 2040, the percentage of people aged 65 or older will have nearly doubled to almost 22%, up from 13% in 2010.  More than 1 in 6 Americans are currently working full- or part-time and assist with the care giving of an elderly or disabled family member or relative.  The typical “sandwich generation” employee is a woman in her late forties who not only works, but has 20 hours of caregiving responsibility a week.
 
Whether employers realize it or not, they are directly impacted by the emotional and physical toll that caregiving responsibilities take on their employees in the form of absenteeism, workplace distractions, and turnover.  On average, employers lose more than $2,000 per year for each employee that is a caregiver.
 
Despite the continued aging population, there has not been much change in the number of employers that offer caregiver benefits to their employees.  According to the Families and Work Institute’s 2016 National Study of Employers, 42% of employers offer resource and referral services, and 78% offer some amount of paid or unpaid time off for employees who need to care for aging relatives.  This has remained unchanged since the study was last conducted in 2012.  
 
Some of the reasons employers may want to consider offering care giver benefits include:

  • Attract and Retain Women – The majority of caregivers are often women, and employers that offer better work life balance options and caregiver benefits may help to differentiate themselves from competitors. This can be important in professions such as law, consulting, or finance that are particularly demanding and have a higher number of women that voluntarily choose to leave due to the intense pressure of juggling work and family needs.
  • Reduce Health Insurance Costs – Caregivers are often so focused on the family members they are caring for that they often neglect their own physical and emotional health needs, which often suffer as a result of the intense stress of being a caregiver.  According to a MetLife Study employers paid approximately 8% more in health care costs for caregiver employees compared to employees that weren’t – potentially costing U.S. employers an estimated $13.4 billion per year.   Employers that offer caregiver benefits ease the stress on employee caregivers, which often translates into taking better care of themselves, which lowers healthcare costs.
  • Increase Productivity and Reduce Absenteeism – It is estimated that employers lose up to $33.6 billion per year in lost productivity from full-time working caregivers. Offering caregiver benefits for employees allows them to better focus on activities at work versus worrying about finding the resources and support to care for their loved ones.
  • Prevent Talent Drain – It is estimated that up to 20% of employees leave the workforce sooner than expected in order to care for a family member.  Often times this happens with employees in the “sandwich generation” caring for children as well as their parents.  Providing caregiver benefits may help with employee retention efforts.
  • Promote a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion – It is important for employers to offer a workforce that is made up of employees from different cultures, background, ages, genders, etc.    Providing benefits to caregivers can be an overall inclusion strategy to attract and maintain a diverse workforce.
For employers that decide to implement caregiver programs and benefits, some of the more common ones include:

  • Allowing flexible schedules and more leave options to better accommodate caregiving needs
  • Provide support for employees, such as employee assistance programs, other counseling, or access to support groups.
  • Provide paid or discounted in-home care services as part of or as a supplement to a healthcare benefit.
  • Offer on-site benefits like day care, or offer discounts for nearby childcare services.
  • Provide free or discounted legal assistance for eldercare questions or medical legal matters.
  • Have benefits counselors who can assist employees in navigating both internal and external benefit programs. These types of counselors can also help them navigate Medicare/Medicaid and other related programs.
  • Offer respite care services to give employees who are caregivers a break.
  • Provide employee wellness programs to help offset the negative impacts of caregiving.

While providing formal benefits to employees with caregiver responsibilities is important, employers should also make sure that the culture within the organization is such that employees feel comfortable and supported by their managers to actually use these benefits. 
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