Employers are beginning to recognize the need to provide care as a serious issue facing their employees. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, nearly one in six adults participating full-time in the workforce also provide unpaid care for a loved one. While large companies are often able to offer more by way of support for these employees, there is still a lot that smaller companies can do to help. In this article, we’ll give a rundown of some of the ways employers of any size can support their employees through a challenging period of their lives and careers.
To understand a bit more about how caregiving impacts life and work, please read part one of this series by clicking here.
How Employers Can Help their Caregiver Employees
Caregiving as a workplace issue is now recognized by a growing number of employers. Here are examples of actions that companies of any size can take to support employees who have caregiving responsibilities:
Flexibility The most requested work adjustment is flexibility in work hours. This may include allowing a shift in schedules (for example, working 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., a compressed work schedule (for example, four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days), a part-time schedule, job sharing, or telecommuting. A limit on mandatory overtime is also helpful. Studies have shown that flexible scheduling improves job performance, decreases tardiness and employee turnover, and increases job satisfaction and retention (even for employees are who are not currently caregivers).
Provide Information Human Resources or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) staff can provide these employees with information on helpful Internet sites, local community services, care managers, or resource centers, and should provide information about leave programs and other company policies.
Offering Training for Supervisors Supervisor training enhances empathy/understanding of the conflicting demands of work and caregiving and ensures that mandates for family leave and antidiscrimination regulations are met.
Protect them from Discrimination Various state regulations and certain sections of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) prohibit employers from discriminating against caregiving employees (for example, passing over employees for promotion, stereotyping employees because of caregiving status).
Offer Leave FMLA Companies with 50 or more employees must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (or 26 weeks to care for an active service member). The leave may be used to care for a seriously ill parent, spouse, or child. Job and health insurance are protected. If your company is required to adhere to FMLA, make sure the employees who need it to provide care for a loved one are given the information they need about their rights quickly. If your company is exempt from FMLA, you can still offer caregiver leave. Approximately half of US companies have fewer than 50 employees and are therefore exempt from FMLA requirements. Nonetheless, many smaller companies use FMLA guidelines to provide support for individual employees. *Note: Ensure that whatever assistance you provide of your own accord is applied consistently across your organization. PFL Paid Family Leave (PFL) is a mandated benefit that covers anyone who takes substantive care of a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, or sibling that is unable to care for themselves in whole or in part due to a debilitating physical or mental condition. California and only a handful of other states currently offer paid family leave. In California, employees may receive up to 55% of their wages for six weeks of leave through the state. Job security is not protected unless California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is applied for and granted (a separate application).
Eligibility: Workers who already pay into the existing State Disability Insurance (SDI) system (you will see it as a deduction on your paycheck) are eligible for paid family leave.
Sometimes larger businesses organize in-house caregiver support groups, informational "brown-bag" lunch sessions, or coordinate with local community groups or hospitals so that employees can attend an outside support group.
Arrange Long-Term Care Insurance
Some employers arrange a group purchase of long-term care insurance for employees, spouses, and their dependents.
Get Creative Other supportive, low-cost things employers can do include publicizing a telephone hotline for caregivers, publishing a list of key contacts, or offering advice in the employee newsletter. As another example, some larger employers offer "cafeteria-style" employee benefits which allow employees to select supplemental dependent care coverage to partially reimburse costs for in-home care or adult daycare. A few companies offer subsidized payments for geriatric care managers. If you want additional ideas, invite your caregiver employees to a discussion and hear what they think would be most helpful or supportive. You don’t have to make promises or do everything they suggest, but the conversation will be eye-opening and may offer clues to the best way forward.
The possibilities for supporting a caregiver are as wide as you can imagine - the important thing is that the employees providing care to a loved one feel supported. The stress of caregiving often causes caregivers to take time off work that they otherwise wouldn’t, which can add stress for them financially but also socially at work.
If you’re a caregiver, we recommend discussing this list or any other ideas you have with your employer. Some employers don’t offer anything simply because they don’t realize they can (or that there’s anyone at their organization who would use it).
We invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here for further reading and resources. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.