Nearly 23 million Americans work a full- or part-time job while also providing care for an ill or disabled parent, spouse, or child. As the COVID-19 pandemic closes schools and childcare facilities, even more of the US workforce is caring for a child or family member while working.
Now more than ever, employer support and workplace benefits that address caregivers’ needs are necessary for this growing segment of the US workforce. Here are strategies that employers can put in place to support caregivers.
Flexible work arrangements can make a meaningful difference for working caregivers. Guardian’s recent report Workforce 2020: Meeting the benefit needs of today’s diverse workforce in a changed world found that 72 percent of caregivers verses 53 percent of non-caregivers rank flexibility and empathy from their employers as “highly important.”1 Workplaces can offer flexibility through the following benefits strategies:
- Offer remote work options. While many employees are working from home due to COVID-19, providing this option as a long-term arrangement can bring vital flexibility to employees who double as caregivers.
- Allow flexible work schedules. If an employee is working from home and caring for a child or family member, a nine to five schedule won’t always line up with their competing demands. Caregivers who are working full-time spend an average of nine hours per week as a caretaker; caretakers who work part time spend over 16 hours a week. Consider offering flexible schedules to help with employees’ personal situations and allow for their unique caretaking, health, or transportation needs.
Consider enhanced benefits
Employer-supported benefits can increase support for employees who are also caregivers, and research shows that they rely on benefits more than workers who don’t have caregiving responsibilities. Sixty-seven percent report that they would face financial hardship without their workplace benefits compared to 47 percent of non-caregivers. Ways employers can support caregivers through benefits include:
- Offering paid time off. Consider grouping paid time off (PTO) programs into a single category of leave, which can offer employees greater flexibility to use time off for whatever they need and whenever they need it.
- Providing clear and inclusive policies and communications. Offer guidance and clarity around protected leave including FMLA and state-specific family leave laws.
- Reinforcing recommendations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to comply with nondiscrimination requirements, including those with respect to preventing unlawful disparate treatment of workers with caregiving responsibilities.
- Considering virtual health care services. Telehealth and teledentistry can increase access to medical and dental consultations and treatments, which can be of particular help to employees with caregiving responsibilities.
- Sharing well-being resources. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can support employee wellness and mental health and can include counseling services. Promote health savings accounts (HSAs) or other health reimbursement programs.
Create organization-wide buy-in and support for caregivers
Caregivers are often deterred from disclosing their caregiving responsibilities and nearly half have not informed their employers because they fear it will negatively impact their career. Building a culture of support and empathy for employees with caretaking responsibilities can encourage openness, reduce stigma towards caregivers, and raise awareness around caregivers’ unique needs.
- Enable managers to support flexible arrangements. By supporting direct managers’ ability to offer flexible schedules or work arrangements to employees they supervise, organizations can build a system of support at all levels.
- Create an employee resource group for workers who are also caregivers. This network can promote visibility and provide shared resources and information on adult care, child daycare facilities, assistance programs, and in-home care.
- Encourage those in leadership positions to share stories of their own caregiving experiences. This can reduce stigma and support an open dialogue around caregiving.
By offering flexibility and empathy to employees with caregiving responsibilities, employers can help encourage trust, promote employee growth, and build loyalty. Guardian’s Workforce 2020 Report found that caregivers who feel their employer cares about their well-being have reported higher job satisfaction. And 74 percent of those who believe their employer cares for them report that they prefer to stay with their employer for 10 years or more.
Over the next 20 years, the US population of adults age 65 and older will more than double in size from 2010, exceeding 80 million. The population of adults age 85 or older is expected to triple. Employers have a unique opportunity to address this trend. Workplace policies and benefits that support caregivers will help employers invest in today’s changing workforce.