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Employers Unaware that Caregiver Employees Need Support

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerJune 14, 2016

Many employers admit that they would be willing to offer caregiving support services, if only they were aware of the need. The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates that half of working caregivers are reluctant to tell their supervisor about their caregiving responsibilities.

More than 15% of the American workforce are family caregivers, and these caregiver employees need extra support to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities. The MetLife Study of Caregivingreports that caregivers who leave work lose an average of $304,000 in benefits and wages over their lifetime.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, caregivers who don’t receive support from employers experience a negative impact on their careers. In fact:

  • 66% of caregiver employees have gone into work late, left early or taken time off during the day to deal with caregiving issues
  • 20% of caregivers were forced to take a leave of absence from work
  • 10% of caregiver employees quit or take early retirement
  • 9% of caregivers reduce hours or take less demanding jobs
  • 5% of caregiver employees turn down a promotion

Lack of Employer Support Not Necessarily Due to Lack of Compassion

Nancy Rubin, head of human resources for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, found herself caring for her aging mother. She told Forbes that stepping into this new role opened her eyes to the plight that was befalling other employees.

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“I listen to the problems and issues of our employees all day, spending most of my time searching for solutions, and then I come home at night and do it all over again with my mom… Because our CEO helps care for his mother-in-law, he really understands and is empathetic to the challenges caregivers face.”

Rubin is fortunate. Not all employees offer a supportive environment for caregivers. This lack of support is not always due to a lack of compassion, however. According to human resources expert Zachary T. Abraham, Principal of AlignHR, LLC, caregiving support services are not usually an add-on feature to Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) and in order to provide elder care support services many human resource departments must choose to eliminate another service.

Caregiver Employees Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Some employers would be willing to offer caregiving support services, if they were aware that there was a need. But many aren’t.

In fact, 50% of working caregivers are reluctant to tell their supervisor about their caregiving responsibilities.

This communication breakdown between employees and their employers is contributing to the lack of support in the workplace. Some employers report caregiving resources and services are available for staff, but are underutilized because workers are afraid to admit they are a family caregiver. When employees don’t take advantage of these caregiving services, human resource departments feel there is no need to keep them.

Take Advantage of Your Workplace’s Culture of Care

When Rubin opened up about her situation to her boss and colleagues she found the support she needed, telling Forbes that it was like a heavy boulder was lifted off her shoulders.

“The culture of care at work really makes me feel that I don’t have to hide anything from my employer and colleagues, which in turn makes me more loyal, dedicated and present in my job,” she said.

Caregiver employees need to learn to ask for help from family, friends and employers in order to avoid caregiver burnout and the other negative consequences associated with caring for an elderly family member. If your employer offers a supportive culture then don’t be afraid to open up to them about your situation and ask if they can offer support. Even if they don’t have a formal program in place for caregivers they may be understanding and able to help in other ways.

Sources:

C. Wakabayashi and K. M. Donato, “Does caregiving increase poverty among women in later life?  Evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey” The Journal of Health and Social Behavior 47, no.3 (2006): 258—74.  Republished by Transamerica.

MetLife Mature Market Institute. “The MetLife Study of Caregiving: Costs to Work Caregivers: Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents.” Westport, CT. MetLife Mature Market Institute. 2011). National Alliance for Caregiving in Cooperation with AARP Caregiving in the US Executive Summary. Funded by MetLife Foundation. November 2009. Pdf.

Snelling, Sherri. “Caregiving is a Corporate Issue.” Forbes. March 27, 2014. Online: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/03/27/caregiving-is-a-corporate-issue/#39850a647022

Interview on Monday, April 4 with Zachary T. Abraham, MSIR, SPHR, AlignHR, LLC, LLC

Are you a caregiver employee who has talked to your employer about support? Share your experiences, stories and suggestions with us in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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