Fifty percent of working female caregivers feel they have to choose between a career and caring for elder and ailing parents, according to a new survey by Home Instead Senior Care. As technology advances and forces a transformation of workplace culture, businesses are often under great pressure to reinvent their approach to attract and retain top talent. As baby boomers continue to age, their care needs will increase, leaving their professional children to make a very difficult decision. This is where employers can make a difference.
Employees, specifically women who are caregivers, oftentimes face a stigma behind an effort to tend to parents — more so than those who care for small children. While there is increased dialogue regarding working women who are raising young children, the challenges faced while navigating a career when caring for an aging parent is less discussed. Much more amenities are geared toward childcare than eldercare, including daycare assistance and tax-deferred childcare accounts.
When working caregivers’ needs are not met, the deficit often impacts an employer in five ways: increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, loss of talent, interruption of services, and a decline in morale. To minimize the impact that working female caregivers face in the workplace, companies can consider offering the following assistance:
- Time and flexibility: Eighty-four percent of caregiving daughters say that a flexible schedule would be helpful in their challenge to find a work/life balance. More employers are recognizing the flexible work arrangements and paid leave for elder caregiving can serve as powerful recruiting and retention levers, and position companies as an “employer of choice.” In turn, it’s important to ensure managers are trained and empowered to demonstrate empathy and make exceptions to policies.
- Expert information: Organizations can offer employees a combination of information resources, referral services, and advice by certified professionals via phone.
- Paid time off (PTO) for caregiving: A majority of caregiving daughters believe that an explicit policy making it permissible to use personal or sick time to care for a parent would help. Many companies have expanded their PTO programs in recent years and some are going so far as to implement unlimited PTO.
- Workshops and webinars: Free webinars can help provide information and recommendations for employees facing different caregiving situations.
- Legal and/or financial advice: Often an offer that is part of an organizations’ Employee Assistance Program, companies encourage employees to take advantage of free legal consultations annually on topics such as preparation of wills, healthcare directives and proxies, and financial power of attorney agreements.
- On-site support: Similar to onsite daycare, several companies see value in offering access to an independent eldercare consultant onsite.
- Intangibles such as culture: A supportive culture is a key success factor for working caregivers. It is important to give the same level of respect for employees caring for an aging family member as those caring for children, and include caregiving for parents in any language outlining family leave policies.
- Care consultations: A hallmark certain eldercare assistance programs is the availability of free consultations for faculty and students that include a gerontologist who develops a caregiving plan for employees — this is an example of going the extra mile to enhance culture and support employees.
- Emergency back-up care: Back-up assistance can be vital for an employee who may not have a heads up when a care need arises. Small companies could consider a buddy system or cross-train employees to cover for others if an emergency arises.
- Caregiver support groups or networks: Support groups, such as one with Eli Lilly for example, provides counseling space, information and resources, and organizes speakers on eldercare topics.
Twenty-three percent of working daughters have found their supervisor unsympathetic to a caregiving situation, and that needs to change. All too often working caregivers have difficulty navigating conversations with employers. Reframing the conversation on eldercare and implementing an open-door policy can drastically transform negative perceptions about a business’ culture.
Marian Battersby is Franchise Owner of Home Instead Senior Care in the Grosse Pointe area. More information can be found here.