How to reduce costs for employers of caregiver employees?

Caregiver employees

Right off the bat, let’s make it clear that the idea behind this is not for employers to find ways to cut corners as it pertains their caregiver employees, but to devise methods through which the working environment can be made receptive and encouraging of caregiver employees so that they remain productive members of a workplace without neglecting their duties to their aged, sick, and disabled relatives. According to MetLife’s Sons at Work: Balancing Employment and Eldercare study, 62% of caregivers make a workplace adjustment (coming in late or leaving early, taking a leave of absence, switching to part-time, &c), 3% opt for early retirement, and 6% become full time caregivers. As we can see, this is a two way street; care giving can affect employment in the same degree that employment can affect care giving.

However, care giving not only affects the employee, but the company as a whole. Caregiver employees cost employers 8% more –or $13.4 billion a year- than non-caregivers, in term of healthcare expenses. Caregivers are very susceptible of experiencing depression, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular conditions, stress, and other medical conditions, as well as unhealthy choices like drinking smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. All of which results in absenteeism, workplace disruptions, and working family caregivers’ reduced work status. Another MetLife study found that 10% of caregivers missed at least one day in the span of two weeks due to health problems. And we all know that they’re not slacking; in fact, some people even see their day job as an escape from the pressures of care giving. What can employers do to make work not an escape fantasy, but an activity that blends seamlessly with care giving, so that employees aren’t forced to ask themselves whether to cut back on care giving, their jobs, or the rest of their family –and at the same time cutting healthcare costs?
  • Corporate care. The idea of providing geriatric care management services is not new, and is in fact a spin-off of childcare programs. However, only 25% of corporations offer some sort of paid family leave, and only 11% provide unpaid leave for more than the 12 weeks required by FMLA law. Corporate care should be the norm rather than the exceptions, and it should also be complemented with other benefits such as fairs, seminars, and training courses like ‘Powerful Tools for Caregivers,’ offered by companies like Nike and Intel.
  • Time flexibility. Some industries have to accommodate to their customers’ schedules; others, however, can work around their employees’ schedules. This can be achieved to some extent through paid time off programs, which eschew conventional programs such as vacation, and sick and personal days, in order to favor single blocks of time that encourage efficient time management and allow employees to take time off when they really need to as opposed to when they are told to.
  • Telecommuting. If you telecommuted, you’d be home now. That can save both transportation time and money, and it would also mean that the employee would be able to tend to their care recipients almost immediately after getting off work. 
  • Other resources. Human resources departments can bridge the gap between employees and care giving resources like the federally-funded Eldercare Locator, and the Area Agency on Aging. Other initiatives that can be implemented include stress reduction classes (on-site yoga, massage therapy), decision support systems, encompassing on-site medical tests and screening, conflict mediation services, free legal and financial advice, online support groups, and health coaching service.
Certainly some of those measures would entail an investment on the part of the employer, but it would be repaid in presenteeism, productivity, and of course, good publicity. 

Related Read: The Role of a Caregiver