Taking care of employees who are caregivers

As if the demands of balancing a full-time job and raising children weren't enough, many employees are facing an added strain these days: Taking care of aging mothers, fathers and other family members. For these employees, "caregiver" is just one more hat they must wear, and the daily juggling act can be exhausting.

So while you're accustomed to accommodating the needs of employees with young children (providing daycare benefits and flexible scheduling for doctor's appointments and school functions, for example), you might want to extend that generosity to employees with elderly parents, as well. It's not enough to be a "child-friendly" business, but an "eldercare-friendly" business, too.

As outlined in an online article at The News-Enterprise, thinking along these lines benefits companies and caregiver employees in many ways, including:

>> Easier to attract and maintain the best workers
>> Increased productivity by reducing stress on employees
>> Less employee absences and disruptions in the work schedule
>> Enhanced community image, which can attract new customers

For forward-thinking employers, recognizing the situation is the first step: Taking care of  elderly or ill parents puts a significant financial and personal strain on employees. The next step, then, is to explore ways to ease the burden on these employees and offer valuable reinforcement. This might come in the form of:

  1. Health and information fairs covering adult day care, nursing home evaluation, insurance issues and services like "meals on wheels"
  2. Flexible work hours, including telecommuting opportunities and job sharing
  3. An employee attendance policy that recognizes caregiving obligations and includes paid time off (PTO) that doesn't necessarily distinguish between vacation and sick days
  4. Onsite caregiver support groups

The risk of ignoring the situation is great. According to a 1999 study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, 16 percent of survey respondents indicated that they had to quit their jobs entirely in order to meet the needs of elderly parents. Many other respondents indicated that they passed up job promotions, training opportunities, or career-advancing projects because of their caregiving obligations.

Obviously, it makes sense to help those employees who are helping others. Otherwise, you could lose trained, highly qualified employees who feel caught between their obligations at home and at work.

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