As the population of the United States ages, millions of adult workers are already providing care for an elderly parent or family member.
Providing such care while working a full-time job is both physically and mentally taxing for most employees, and studies even show that burnout from caregiving responsibilities cost companies nearly $13.4 billion each year in health care expenses.
To make matters worse, employees who care for their aging parents are more likely to be less productive, take more time off, and arrive to work late on a regular basis. This is troubling news for many companies, especially since lower productivity often equates to lower revenue. Some companies are beginning to offer a variety of support resources to employees doubling as caregivers.
Backup elder care is a benefit some organizations are considering for employees. In general, there are two primary types of elder care benefits:
- Dependent care assistance plans. These plans deduct a certain portion of an employee’s paycheck (gross amount before taxes) to pay for elder care costs. According to Forbes, currently, 41 percent of employers offer this benefit.
- Respite care. Offered by only 7 percent of companies, this benefit offers short-term care to family members when an employee needs to rest, take time off or go into work.
Some other types of elder care benefits include:
- Flexible work options. These options include allowing caregiver employees to work from home, have flexible hours during the day, or providing paid time off.
- Care subsidies. This benefit would help employees with the cost of elder care with subsidies covering either direct costs or backup care.
- Support groups. Employers can create onsite caregiver support groups for employees. This will allow them to speak with fellow coworkers dealing with caregiving of senior parents and perhaps find some value in communicating. The employer may also provide online support group resources if onsite isn’t an option.
Respite care is the benefit most commonly referred to as backup elder care, and it is provided through the private insurance companies employers contract with. It is a voluntary benefit, so employees who do not need backup elder care do not have to enroll. If an employee does not know whether they have these benefits, they should speak with a human resources or benefits manager.
The Professional Impact of an Aging Population
According to the U.S. census, nearly 70 million Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2030. This may sound like a shocking statistic to many, but as the baby boomer population ages and exits the workforce, their children and younger relatives might be required to act as caregivers in many situations.
Backup elder care benefits helps employers reduce the amount of stress caregiving employees experience by allowing them to know that their loved ones will be cared for while they are at work.
Studies show that employees prefer to work for companies that offer a reasonable work-life balance. Companies should keep this in mind when deciding whether to provide backup elder care. Caregiving can be exhausting, even for the most dedicated individual and when paired with a demanding work schedule, employees become overwhelmed.
By providing elder care, caregiving employees will have more flexibility. This means limiting the choice of missing a workday or taking care of an infirm parent.
According to a 2012 CareerBuilder study, nearly 40 percent of employees who voluntarily left the workplace did so because of a poor work-life balance. Few employees appreciate being called in at the last minute to work abnormal hours, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Most managers and supervisors are aware of this, but if their employees have outside caregiving obligations, they simply will not be able to depend on them to work outside of normal work hours.
Many employees also have difficulty balancing their caregiving responsibilities with regular work hours. Caregivers are more likely than other employees to leave work early and use paid time off to look after loved ones.
This can place a strain on the workplace when a valuable employee is not able to work their normal hours, especially if other workers are forced to pull their weight for them.
Millennials make up 35 percent of the American workforce, and as members of the baby boomer generation age millennials will have to accept the role of family caregiver. As of 2013, nearly 19 percent of caregiving employees were under the age of 40, and this percentage is only expected to increase in coming years. If a company fails to keep such statistics in mind when recruiting younger professionals, it may start to notice its talent pool shrinking because of its perceived lack of concern for its employees who double as caregivers.
Offering Backup Elder Care
As time continues to prove backup elder care should be a benefit offered by an employer, more companies are taking responsibility in offering these benefits. A main provider of backup elder care is Bright Horizons. They offer 24/7 backup elder care to employers. The organization is understanding of both the employer and employee’s needs and even provides an online self-service support for if the employee wants to choose and hire the caregivers themselves. Other providers include Care.com, LifeCare and Town + Country Resources.
Prices vary per provider, with some backup benefit providers estimating a minimum of $15,000 per year to be paid by the employer. The average amount of an employee paying for elder care services is estimated at $4 to $6 per day if the employer subsidizes the cost.
Offering backup elder care is not only beneficial for employees and their loved ones but a company’s bottom line as well. Caregiving employees cost companies millions of dollars in lost hours each year, and by offering backup elder care, you may be able to make up for these losses and retain your most valuable employees who want to work for a company that understands their needs and the importance of family.