Why em­ploy­ers are of­fer­ing caregiving ben­e­fits

Com­pa­nies that off­set the bur­den for em­ploy­ees with med­i­cal and sup­port ser­vices are likely to see higher re­ten­tion rates

Employee Benefit News - - VOLUNTARY - BY AMANDA EISEN­BERG

More than one in six U.S. em­ploy­ees has a se­condary job their em­ployer might not know about: in­for­mal caregiving for a rel­a­tive.

As the older adult pop­u­la­tion in the U.S. is pro­jected to nearly dou­ble in size by 2050 from 48 mil­lion to 88 mil­lion, em­ploy­ers need to ex­pect that em­ploy­ees might be dis­tracted with the fi­nan­cial and emo­tional bur­den of car­ing for a rel­a­tive and are look­ing for sup­port in the form of peer sup­port groups, med­i­cal tools, flex­i­ble sched­ules and more.

In fact, 23% of em­ploy­ees are spend­ing 41 hours or longer each week car­ing for a rel­a­tive, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from the North­east Busi­ness Group on Health.

“Many em­ploy­ees pro­vid­ing care for loved ones don’t think of them­selves as care­givers but rather as ‘just do­ing what’s nec­es­sary,’ and that in it­self can be an ob­sta­cle in ad­e­quately sup­port­ing those strug­gling with this bur­den,” says Jeremy No­bel, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the NEBGH.

Mean­while, em­ploy­ees dis­tracted with their care­tak­ing re­spon­si­bilites have a big im­pact on em­ploy­ers, af­fect­ing ab­sen­teeism, pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els, health­care costs and re­ten­tion rates — fac­tors that re­sult in a loss of al­most $38 bil­lion each year for em­ploy­ers, ac­cord­ing to the NEBGH.

“There’s a grow­ing aware­ness at the risk caregiving rep­re­sents for the health and well-be­ing of the em­ployee care­giver,” No­bel says.

So what’s an em­ployer to do? Or­ga­ni­za­tions, No­bel says, can help their caregiving em­ploy­ees in a num­ber of ways, such as tack­ling com­pany cul­ture, fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess to lo­gis­ti­cal, le­gal and med­i­cal ser­vices and train­ing man­agers to be more aware of the chal­lenges.

For ex­am­ple, Big Four firm EY of­fers two tele­phonic peer sup­port groups man­aged by its in­ter­nal em­ployee as­sis­tance pro­gram team. Em­ploy­ees can join EY’s care­giver group to share re­sources, in­for­ma­tion, ideas and ex­pe­ri­ences, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. The firm also has a group to sup­port par­ents of chil­dren with spe­cial health needs, where em­ploy­ees can ad­dress trends in care and par­ent­ing.

Em­ployer-formed net­works, such as EY’s sup­port groups, are cru­cial for many mil­len­nial care­givers — the fastest-grow­ing de­mo­graphic — who might not have co­work­ers in their peer group to dis­cuss th­ese is­sues with, No­bel says. Em­ploy­ers also can of­fer mil­len­ni­als and tech-savvy em­ploy­ees web-based tools and ser­vices. For ex­am­ple, Pru­den­tial Fi­nan­cial of­fers Best Doc­tors, a physi­cian re­fer­ral ser­vice, to its em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies as a ben­e­fit, ac­cord­ing to the NEBGH. As a re­sult, 65% of the in­surance com­pany’s em­ploy­ees or their rel­a­tives us­ing the ser­vice re­ceived a changed di­ag­no­sis.

If caregiving ben­e­fit ser­vices aren’t enough, flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing or leave poli­cies can make the dif­fer­ence for caregiving em­ploy­ees.

While more than three in five work­ers in the United States are cov­ered by the Fam­ily Med­i­cal Leave Act, which guar­an­tees up to 12 weeks of un­paid leave, it isn’t pos­si­ble for most care­givers to lose their salary. On av­er­age, fam­ily care­givers spend $7,000 on out-of-pocket caregiving ex­penses an­nu­ally, which is close to 20% of over­all in­come for many Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Some em­ploy­ers, like Big Four firm Deloitte and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Pfizer, of­fer paid time off to take care of a rel­a­tive. Other com­pa­nies of­fer paid fam­ily leave that em­ploy­ees can use for ma­ter­nity and pa­ter­nity leave, or for tak­ing care of a sick or dis­abled par­ent, spouse or child.

Above all, No­bel says, em­ploy­ers need to “make sure that the right set of sup­port ac­tiv­i­ties are not just avail­able but ac­tively com­mu­ni­cated to the em­ploy­ees around lo­gis­ti­cal and emo­tional sup­port.”

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