Despite the fact most of the media attention on the plight of women at work is focused on working mothers, working daughters have also struggled to balance care and career this past year perhaps more than ever before. Eldercare and career were barely compatible to begin with and then COVID hit.
For more than a year, women have been operating under incredible stress, unable to see relatives in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, or trying to fill in for the paid caregivers they let go due to fear of contracting the virus, or attempting to work from home with a sick mother or father who needs attention. As one working daughter who moved her father in when the pandemic hit, told CNBC, “I can’t tell you how close I have come to forcing myself to retire early, which means paying for my own medical insurance … I have come very close, with the stress…I just can’t take it.”
At a time when family caregivers need support, too many employers are slow to offer the support and benefits working caregivers need. According to Caregiving in the U.S. 2020, an AARP research report, among working caregivers, more than half (58 percent) say their employer offers paid sick days, report having flexible work hours (56 percent), and have unpaid family leave (53 percent). However, less than 40 percent have paid family leave, and just one quarter say their employers offer employee assistance programs or telecommuting.
But perhaps most concerning from the report is this, “The challenges faced by workers with eldercare responsibilities are generally not as well understood by supervisors and managers as childcare responsibilities.” It’s time managers get educated because when family caregivers aren’t supported at work, everyone loses. More from the report: Six in 10 caregivers report having experienced at least one impact or change to their employment situation as a result of caregiving, with about half having to go in late, leave early, or take time off to provide care. Other impacts include cutting back on working hours (15 percent), taking a leave of absence (14 percent), or receiving a warning about performance or attendance (8 percent).
When caregivers can’t work, it gets expensive – for everybody. Companies lose $17.1 billion annually in lost productivity due to caregiving. Replacing working daughters who leave due to caregiving costs companies $3.3 billion. Caregiver stress results in an 8 percent increase in healthcare costs. And working daughters lose an average of $$324,044 in compensation due to caregiving, per a study from MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving.
So what do working daughters, and sons, need at work?
Acknowledgement With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, a global pandemic that has hit the elderly hardest of all, and 61 percent of all family caregivers in the workforce, it is not okay for employers to not understand caregiving outside of childcare. Education starts with conversation. Whether via management emails or during staff meetings, or better yet both, owners and managers should acknowledge that their workforce may be wrestling with caregiving issues right now.
Benefits that actually help them balance family and work. Managers should survey employees, not assume they know who the caregiving employees are, or what they need. While the average family caregiver is a woman in her late 40s to early 50s, eldercare is impacting more and more Americans each day. In fact, 40 percent of family caregivers are men and 25 percent are millennials. Employers cannot assume they know who the caregivers are on their teams. The best practice is to raise the issue of caregiving needs and ask employees how best to support them. A report from Harvard Business School (HBS) revealed there is a “gross misalignment” between the benefits caregiving employees want and the benefits employers provide.
Community. Savvy businesses have support groups for working parents. They need something similar for workers with parents. That same HBS report also reported that more than 90 percent of employees, when asked, “How important are caregiving support groups/networks to the decision to stay with your organization?” said “Very” or “Quite” important. Working Daughter at Work, for example, is a turnkey workplace benefit that serves as your internal caregiving support group.
Work-from-home, or flexible, options. If COVID taught us anything about work, it’s that we all don’t need to be on-site to do our jobs. Many people can successfully, productively work from home. They should be allowed to. Companies that can’t support work from home operations, should consider allowing employees to commute during off-peak hours, create flexible schedules, and job share so they have the flexibility they need to be available to their families.
Strong and compassionate leaders. It is crucial that conversations about caregiving start from the top because many caregivers are hesitant to reveal to their employers that they have caregiving responsibilities at home. The HBS report also revealed that employees worry that caregiving will negatively impact their career growth. Caregivers perceived, “harmful consequences, such as demotivation due to a lack of challenging assignments (54 percent), lower salary increases or bonuses (50 percent), and an unsatisfactory career path (46 percent).”
By initiating conversations, and including eldercare in workplace benefits, employers can begin to address the needs of its workforce, and in doing so, develop plans for managing gaps in business coverage and services when caregivers inevitably need grace to tend to family.