Employees who provide care for others often find these responsibilities present conflicts with work. After all, things like medical appointments often fall during the same hours as a standard workday—just one example of how caregiving responsibilities can impact employers, no matter how conscientious the employees are.
Employees often need to care for both children and aging relatives, sometimes at the same time. Right now, this is an even bigger issue because many childcare facilities are closed or at decreased capacities due to COVID-19 restrictions, and some schools are operating on schedules that require children to be at home more when they normally would be attending in person.
Caring for aging relatives is also on the upswing—not only are elderly individuals one of the largest generational cohorts, but they’re also the most susceptible to the worst effects of illnesses like the flu, pneumonia, and COVID-19. Like school challenges, there may also be shortages in regular care options when these situations occur, leaving loved ones to carry more of the caregiving responsibility than they normally would.
Fortunately, there are ways employers can be proactive about this situation and lessen its negative impact, such as through benefits that can help employees faced with caregiving responsibilities shoulder them without as much of a negative impact on their job. Here are some examples of such benefits:
- Offer additional personal leave beyond the legally mandated Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Or, consider offering leave specifically for caregiving, and put parameters on it.
- Provide financial counseling. Finances can take a hit when medical needs arise for aging relatives, so counseling can be a benefit employees can use that they didn’t realize they needed.
- Be as flexible as possible with work schedules to allow people to work around their caregiving responsibilities while still getting their work done. This may mean flexibility in start times or leniency on late arrivals, for example. It could also take the form of flexible work arrangements and overall work hour changes.
- Ensure you provide health insurance and that it includes mental healthcare coverage. Communicate with employees about the health and wellness plans on offer so they know what is available to take care of themselves.
- Offer an employee assistance program to help employees cope with the stresses they’re facing. Be sure to communicate about this program so employees know it exists and how to utilize it when they need it.
- Consider lifting any requirements for using sick days. For example, if your current policy requires a note from a healthcare professional for absences, consider removing that requirement so employees can use sick days for other purposes.
Beyond these types of benefits, employers may also find it beneficial to train management to recognize signs of stress and burnout and be proactive about assessing employee workloads. This can help alleviate preventable workplace stress that could negatively impact the situation, as well.
What other benefits does your organization offer that are useful for employees who are also caregivers?