The Aging Parent Dilemma: Why Companies Need to Support Employee Caregivers
JULY 14, 2021
Many workplaces offer flexible hours and support for new parents, but working moms and dads are also sons and daughters. With Baby Boomers settling into retirement, their children increasingly are taking on caregiving roles—often while supporting their own families and working full-time.
About 40 million Americans aged 40 to 59 are helping at least one parent with the tasks of daily living, according to a Pew Research study. About half of these adults are also supporting a child at the same time.
Some companies are beginning to offer more benefits for elder care, and more employees will need caregiving support as the trend continues.
Caregiving’s workplace implications
The emotional and financial burdens that weigh on caregivers affect their work performance. Most caregivers have jobs, but 70 percent make workplace adjustments like leaving early to take a parent to the doctor, according to AARP research. These hiatuses, however brief, take a toll on workers’ emotional and professional lives, and they come with a hefty price tag. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that businesses lose an estimated $33.6 billion annually in lost productivity from full-time working caregivers.
Earlier this summer, President Obama said that family leave and workplace flexibility are basic needs — not frills. Yet most companies have no formal policies to help employees who are caring for a loved one. A mere 5 percent offer referral services to employees looking for elder care services, according to the 2014 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resources Management.
While there are no laws governing how employers handle elder care, several forward-thinking employers are supporting their caregiving employees.
At Palo Alto Software, CEO Sabrina Parsons has built a family-friendly workplace centered around flexible schedules. Working from home and bringing children to work are options for all employees. "We don’t offer this flexibility just for parents of children. The flexibility is just as available for people caring for elderly parents," Parsons tells Cornerstone OnDemand, adding that employees have remained loyal because they're happy with their accommodating schedules.
Mailing and shipping company Pitney Bowes has discussion groups for employees who are serving as caregivers to loved ones. It provides them with financial and legal resources, counseling on hospice and palliative care, and flexible working arrangements. At Duke University, faculty and staff have access to elder care referrals and resources through the university’s Family Support Program.
Lisa Bull, director of training and development at Ceridian LifeWorks, tells Fortune that more employers will start to help with elder care soon, because "it’s becoming a huge tool for attracting and retaining talent, especially among Millennials, who put a high priority on work-life balance."
Does your company offer resources to help employees with elder care?
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