In generations past, there would often be a nonworking family member that was able to take care of older and/or sick relatives. Now, in large part due to the increasing entry of women into the workforce, many families of today simply do not have a nonworking family member available to be a caregiver. This trend is expected to continue in the future, creating struggles for working employees that need to provide care for family members, and ultimately placing a burden on employers as well.
Costly for Employees and Employers
The reality is that when employees are forced to be caregivers in addition to working, employers suffer. Intensive caregiving is associated with early retirement, reduced work hours, and declined productivity. In addition, when employees are tasked with becoming caregivers, they face a large degree of financial risk. Reducing hours to be able to provide care or quitting a job altogether can result in significant financial insecurity in both the short and long term.
Research shows that about 13% of employees who have no access to paid time off say they’ve had to reduce their work hours, and 14% percent reported quitting their jobs altogether.
As a result, a small but growing number of employers are taking steps to go above and beyond to offer paid caregiver leave to employees.
Paid Caregiver Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees to take unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons. Under the FMLA, however, family means a parent, spouse, or child under 18. These rigid guidelines mean that many caregiver scenarios are not technically covered by FMLA. In fact, Forbes has reported that more than one-third of family caregivers provide help for an adult family member who falls outside of the FMLA’s parameters.
Some states (about one third) are moving to broaden eligibility for workers beyond the federal provisions in the FMLA, enhancing support for employed caregivers by providing a more inclusive definition of an eligible family member and extending FMLA use provisions to allow employed caregivers to take family members to appointments.
Paid caregiver leave helps employed caregivers remain at their jobs, benefiting both the employee and employer. That being said, employers are moving slowly to offer this type of leave. A national survey of employers conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 16% of private industry employees had access to paid family leave through their employers in March 2018.
The United States does not have a federal policy that requires employers to provide paid family leave benefits, and certainly not expanded benefits that could benefit employed caregivers. That being said, employers that opt to offer paid family leave including expanded benefits for employed caregivers will find that employee morale and retention is greatly improved.
Crafting a Policy
Because there is no federal law mandating that employers offer paid family leave, employers have the opportunity to get creative and craft a policy that works for the business and for the employees. Offering some amount of paid family leave that includes caregiver leave is the ideal, but even offering partially paid leave can be beneficial. And if offering paid family leave is not financially feasible, there are still ways that employers can support caregivers. Some of these ways include allowing sick time to be used for caregiving, offering flexible schedules, and requiring employees to use accrued time off before tapping into caregiver leave.
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Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design.