Why Providing Caregiver Support Can Better Your Business 

 February 7, 2018


You’ve just worked a solid eight hours. Your eyes are tired, or maybe your feet ache. All you want to do is go home turn on whichever Real Housewives is airing and relax. But one in every six employees can’t. Before they get to relax these employees have to complete their second job as an informal caregiver. These caregivers, in addition to their regular job duties, are responsible for the care or treatment, of a family member or loved one.

It’s estimated there is a total of over 65 million Americans who care for a family member. This total is around 30 percent of the country’s total population. Caregiving is affecting a substantial portion our nation’s active workforce. But employers have been slow to respond to the demand from these employees.

According to Workforce, just 12 percent of employers offer tools or resources to support caregivers. By not providing these benefits, organizations are hurting both their employers and their overall bottom line. Caregivers who aren’t supported by their employer can struggle to maintain their performance levels.

When your employees struggle, individually, to perform; it affects the company’s performance as a whole. So why have employers been so slow to respond to this, seemingly, common occurrence? How precisely can caregiving affect an individual and their work performance? What benefits can your company use to provide proper caregiver support?

What is Caregiver Support?

Providing caregiver support means offering employees benefits that help employees relieve the stress or responsibility associated with being a primary caregiver. One of the most significant reasons employers across the country have been slow to provide caregiver support is due to a lack of understanding.

Many organizations just don’t understand the scope of the issue. And a major reason for this lack of understanding is the stigma surrounding the subject. A 2017 report from the Northeast Business Group on Health, found only 56 percent of employees reported their work supervisor is aware of their caregiving responsibilities.

Employees, scared by the potential stigma associated with disclosing their caregiver status, aren’t telling their employer when caregiving affects their life. Many workers are concerned their career will be negatively affected if they divulge this information. It’s difficult for employers to provide the right set of benefits for employees if they don’t know what issues are affecting them.

What are the Effects?

Informal caregivers work an average of an additional 24.4 hours per week. And there are a plethora of common side effects associated with these extended hours. The extra work related to caregiving can affect absenteeism, healthcare costs, retention rates, and productivity.

When multiplied by the total number of caregivers in your workforce it’s easy to see the massive negative potential of these side effects on your business. Ceridian discovered American employers are losing $38.2 billion in productivity due to the adverse effects of caregiving on employees.

Similarly, an AARP study found U.S. companies are losing $25 billion from absentee caregivers. The average caregiver misses six to seven days of work a year. Furthermore, employers pay an additional $13.4 billion per year in healthcare costs for workers with caregiving responsibilities.

And it’s not just employers who take a financial hit. Every year employees who are caregivers spend a total of $190 billion on their loved ones. The average caregiver spends $7,000 on out-of-pocket caregiving costs.

Additionally, two-thirds of employees in the Northeast study claimed to have made adjustments to their work because of their caregiving duties. These adjustments included reporting late and even quitting their jobs. Caregiving responsibilities are costing both your employees and your business as a whole. So what can your organization do to provide caregiver support?

Benefits Offerings?

The answer to how to support these workers lies with your employee benefits. Your company’s employee benefits package can help back employee caregivers. These benefits range in cost and effectiveness, but they all assist.

1. Stress Reduction Program

Caregiving responsibilities can be immensely stressful. And stress, as we know, is the silent killer. Not only for individuals but businesses too. Job-related stress alone costs U.S. companies alone an estimated $300 billion a year.

Stress reduction programs help your employees fight the harmful negative effects of stress. These programs can differ in what benefits they offer, but there are a multitude of options. These options include yoga, meditation, and one-on-one meetings.

2. Eldercare Consultants

Many of those with caregiving responsibilities are caring for their elderly parents. Eldercare consultants can give employees a plan for how to manage their aging loved one’s care. These consultants can provide a personal and tailored care plan for your employees, and the aging loved ones they support.

3. Geriatric Assessments

A geriatric assessment is another tool helpful to caregivers of elderly loved ones. The geriatric assessment is multidimensional assessment designed to evaluate an older person’s functional ability, physical health, cognition, and mental health.

Geriatric assessments vary from a standard medical test because they include nonmedical domains and emphasize functional capacity and quality of life. This evaluation helps caregivers fully understand their loved one’s needs. Similarly, this test allows employees who are caregivers to develop a treatment and follow-up plan based on the results.

4. On-Site Childcare

On-site childcare is a rare employee benefit. Only 17 of last year’s Fortune 100 top companies provided an on-site childcare center. On-site care centers are costly (they cost an estimated $400,000 on average, to build) but they are useful.

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario has claimed their company recoups around 91 percent of the $1 million in annual costs. These savings are made up through tax breaks and not having to replace parents who would otherwise leave the workforce to care for children.

5. Digital Tools and Resources

There is a multitude of cheap and even free digital resources you can offer caregiving staff members. These tools can help employees cope with their caregiving duties and provide legal and financial counseling for your employees and their loved ones.

6. Employee Resources Group

One of the best, and cheapest, benefits for your employees is an employee resource group. Employee resource groups are voluntary, employee-led groups. These groups work to promote diverse and inclusive workplaces that align the organizational mission, values, and goals.

7. Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave is a crucial benefit for employees with caregiving responsibilities. This leave pays employees while they are away from work for an extended period. Taking care of a loved one is almost always under the purview of paid family leave.

8. Management Training

A key benefit of providing caregiver support is management training. Your organization has to train your leadership team how to manage employees who moonlight as caregivers effectively. Managers also need to know the local, state, and federal leave laws. Without this knowledge, your company could get itself into trouble when dealing with an employee-caregiver.

9. Employee Education

It’s essential your staff understands what their rights and benefits are as a caregiver. Similarly, your business needs to work with every employee, not just caregivers, to remove the stigma surrounding employees with caregiving responsibilities.

10. Flexible Work

Flexible work is one of the most important benefits to offer for caregivers. Increasing employees flexible work options (including flexible hours, schedule, and hours) gives employees the ability to choose when and where they work. This flexibility allows employee-caregivers to work around their caregiving responsibilities, and hopefully, work when they are the most productive.

The Wrap

As the American population ages, there will an increasing number employees who are also caregivers. These changing demographics will only increase the need for benefits that provide caregiver support. Caregiver benefits help your organization reap business rewards and support some of your most tired employees.