Many employers throughout the country are witnessing an increase in time off requests by employees who need to care for their elderly parents. Specifically, it is estimated that nearly 20% of U.S. workers are caring for elder adults, and half of the current workforce expects to provide eldercare in the near future. Caregiving takes a financial, physical and emotional toll on employees and also affects the employers as well. Accordingly, employers are encouraged to provide necessary resources and create a workplace culture that facilitates caregiving in order to adequately support their employees.

The stress of providing care is not something employees can simply “put on the back burner.” A 2015 study found that in addition to the obvious stress related to providing care for elderly family members, 52% of the employees reported suffering from anxiety.  These feelings may arise when an employee cannot be there for a loved one who needs his/her care. In addition, employees report missing an average of seven workdays per year in order to provide care to an elderly family member.

The stress surrounding caregiving also takes a toll on employers. Specifically, productivity losses as a result of caregiving are estimated at $2,110.00 per year per employee, totaling up to $33 billion annually. As such, it is important for employers to recognize that eldercare is a legitimate work-life concern and implement policies and programs that facilitate employee caregiving.

Employer Policies

One possibility for employers to enable caregiving is by adopting flexible work-life policies. Such policies include allowing appropriate employees to work from home a few days per week and permitting employees to leave early, but to finish up work at home when necessary. Deloitte, a professional services organization calculated that flexible policies save employers throughout the U.S. around $41.5 million in turnover costs.

Another way to facilitate employee caregiving is to educate employees about the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). While approximately 60% of employees are eligible for FMLA, many are unaware of its protections. Employers are encouraged to educate employees and on how to use the FMLA effectively.

In addition, there are state family leave laws in several states including New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Employers need to understand state family and medical leave laws and how they apply to their employees. If employers have employees in different states, it is essential that they understand each state’s leave laws.

It is also important for employers to create a formal caregiving policy, which allows eligible employees to take advantage of flexible work arrangements, paid time off and other programs established by the employer. Further, it is important that the policy define any restrictions on time off.

Employee Assistance Programs

Another way employers can support their employees as caregivers is by providing Employee Assistance Programs (“EAPs”), which are a cost-effective solution to the dilemma employees face. EAPs provide confidential hotlines that link employees to resources essential to handle a variety of personal issues, which can affect their work-life balance. Employers may want to provide EAP education so that employees can find efficient and effective help concerning their caregiving needs.

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