As the population ages, more and more employees are finding themselves part of what is often called the “sandwich generation.” This group, unlike the traditional generations, is not defined by what year you were born but rather by a stage of life—the stage in which you find yourself sandwiched between caregiving responsibilities for both dependents (typically your children) and your aging parents. This often occurs during your 30s and 40s.
Employees with caregiving responsibilities can have a big impact the workforce, regardless of whether that caregiving is related to child care, aging or ill parent care, or both. Employees in these situations are often forced to take time off of work—either paid or unpaid—as these caregiving needs take priority in their nonwork lives. There are also impacts on the job, and employers would be well-served to prepare for this.
Caregiving Impacts Employers Directly
There are a lot of ways that caregiving responsibilities impact the employer. For example:
- The individual may use up all paid time off for caregiving responsibilities, which leaves little to no time for vacations. This can leave employees stressed, more susceptible to burnout, and less productive.
- Stress from caregiving can spill over into the workplace, creating situations in which employees have a short temper or are more likely to make mistakes. The stress can also have health impacts for the employee (which also increases costs for the organization).
- Employees in this situation may have frequent tardiness or absences, which can cause disruptions and make other employees frustrated.
- Employees may even end up losing or quitting their job if their caretaking responsibilities require more time than they’re able to give while still working their previous schedule. This may result in higher turnover and increased recruiting costs if caregivers cannot be kept on board.
- Employees may end up taking a leave of absence—usually Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, if applicable—which the employer will then need to cover for. If FMLA is not available, they may end up taking any other personal leave offered by the employer or offered under state or local laws.
- Employers lose productivity, and employees may face lost wages—especially if not in a salaried position or if unable to take paid leave to cover the disruptions. This can create additional stress on both sides.
Caregiving situations can last several years and cause these types of disruptions the whole time. Thankfully, employers do have some options to reduce the impact for themselves and for their employees—thus making a frustrating situation better for everyone. These types of options are often referred to as caregiving benefits because they’re benefits designed specifically for employees who are caregivers for others.
Here are some examples of what types of benefits employers can offer to offset the problems faced by caregivers:
- Allow flexible schedules to better accommodate caregiving needs and allow employees better work/life balance as a result.
- 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 short- and long-term disability insurance coverage, and consider offering family options as well.
- Offer on-site benefits like day care, or offer discounts for nearby childcare services.
- Provide free or discounted legal assistance for eldercare questions or for 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 things like Medicare/Medicaid and other related programs.
- Offer more leave options, such as:
- Personal leaves of absence for any reason
- Leave specifically designated for caregiving responsibilities
- Sick days that can be used to care for ill family members.
- Offer respite care services to give employees who are caregivers a break.
- Train managers and supervisors to be more aware:
- They can recognize signs that employees may need assistance. This could be your only indication that someone is struggling.
- Train managers and anyone in a position to affect employee careers to not overlook employees simply because they’re in a caregiving role. Don’t make assumptions that a person won’t want a promotion or a project—doing so can make the situation worse.
- Offer financial counseling, which can come in handy during times when employees are struggling with extra medical bills and/or caring for now-dependent parents.
- Provide employee wellness programs to help offset the negative impacts of caregiving.
Bear in mind that many of these benefits can have the costs shared by the employer and employee and still be a highly-valued benefit for the employee and will allow the employee to stay with the organization. Many times employers will be able to get group rates that still represent savings for employees over what they could get themselves.
What other caregiving benefits has your organization offered?