Employers Can Do More to Support Family Caregivers

Employers Can Do More to Support Family Caregivers


With more than 60 percent of America’s 40 million family caregivers balancing their caregiving responsibilities with paid employment, there is a pressing need for employers to do more to support employees who are also caring for loved ones. In fact, according to a survey AARP conducted with the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an overwhelming majority of the company benefit managers – 82% – say that family caregiving will become an increasingly important issue for their companies over the next five years. That is why AARP is partnering with NEGBH to help employers assess their company culture and develop strategies and policies to create a caregiver-friendly workplace.

In addition to time spent at the office or job site, family caregivers, on average, spend a little over 24 hours per week on a whole host of tasks to help their parents, spouses, children with disabilities and other loved ones live independently. They manage medications, prepare and serve meals, help their loved ones to bathe and dress, arrange transportation (or do the driving themselves), handle financial and legal matters and much, much more. About 60 percent of family caregivers assist with medical or nursing tasks like injections and tube feedings.

Some have to readjust their work schedules, often working fewer hours than they otherwise would, using paid time off for caregiving duties and taking unpaid time off when needed. Others work more hours or take an additional job to cover the bills. Many put their own health at risk for the sake of their loved one, and many say they feel isolated at work, unable to be honest about the responsibilities they carry at home for fear of judgement or reprisal.

There are a lot of things employers can do to support employees who are also family caregivers. It could be something as simple – and low cost – as forming an employee support group or distributing a list of caregiver resources. Some companies are leveraging employee assistance programs and new digital tools to help employees manage their care tasks. Other practices to consider are re-thinking sick leave and flex-time policies to take caregiving responsibilities into account or offering back-up care and respite care services as employee benefits.

At AARP, we live our values with paid caregiving leave, flex-time and back-up care options and an organizational culture that recognizes and supports our family caregiving colleagues. (I’ve frankly never worked at an organization that walked the walk on this issue the way AARP does.) A recent report by AARP and ReAct, a coalition dedicated to addressing challenges faced by employee caregivers, highlights a number of promising practices at other organizations. For example, Allianz Life offers quarterly educational sessions and a 24/7 support line for employees caring for aging relatives and other loved ones. Bank of America employees can tap emergency back-up care at a reduced rate and have access to legal and senior care consultants. And, staff at CBS can get help navigating the health care system through the company’s Health Advocate program.

To help other organizations support employee caregivers, we’ve developed an employer toolkit in collaboration with NEBGH. Resources include a self-assessment tool and a comprehensive guide complete with checklists and handouts to help employers identify and implement ways to support the caregivers in their workforce. One quick and easy step in the right direction is a list of caregiving resources ready that can be copied and distributed. The toolkit is available for free at www.employercaregivingtoolkit.org.

Whatever the changes, our research shows that having caregiver-friendly workplace policies is good for business. 87% of respondents in our caregiving and workplace survey say that supporting family caregivers in the workforce can increase productivity, and 75% say that having a caregiving-friendly workplace would help attract and retain talent. In addition, policies that help family caregivers take care of themselves – physically and mentally – can reduce employers’ healthcare costs in the long run.

As our country ages with more older Americans staying in their homes, the nation’s 40 million family caregivers are the bedrock of our long-term care system. We need to make sure that that they have the resources and support they need to care for their loved ones – especially when they are also working hard to support themselves and their families.


Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond



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Long-Term Unemployment Down for People Ages 55+ in July

Long-Term Unemployment Down for People Ages 55+ in July



 

Employment overview

 

While many employment indicators for the 55+ were unchanged from June, the July 2017 Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that more people ages 55+ were employed and a lower percentage of jobseekers ages 55+ were experiencing long-term unemployment.  Overall, the economy added 209,000 jobs in July, down from 231,000 (revised) in June.  The unemployment rate for those ages 55 and older was virtually unchanged at 3.2 percent with 1.2 million of the 55+ unemployed.  The labor force participation rate for the 55+ was also unchanged at 40.1 percent.

 

Spotlight on employee tenure

 

With unemployment at a 16-year low and many employers concerned about skills shortages, organizations are putting a renewed emphasis on retaining their best employees for as long as possible. An attribute often ascribed to older workers is employer loyalty, best expressed through longer job tenure.  BLS data has shown that older workers do indeed stay with their employers longer compared with their younger counterparts. The most recent data on overall median tenure (the point at which half of all wage and salary workers had more tenure and half had less tenure) was 4.2 years in January 2016. This was a decline from 4.6 years in January 2014.

 

Median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (2.8 years). A greater percentage of older workers also had been with their employers for at least a decade compared with younger workers. Workers ages 60 to 64 were particularly likely to have long tenures. Fifty-five percent of workers in this age range were with their employers for a decade or more.  Meanwhile, only 13 percent of workers ages 30 to 34 and 24 percent of workers ages 35 to 39 had tenures of 10 years or more.

 

Many factors can influence job tenures. Education levels appear to influence tenure, with individuals with lower levels of education typically also having lower median tenures.  The industry and occupational mix within the economy can also be a factor. For example, public sector workers, which are more likely to include older individuals, had more than double the median tenure of private-sector workers in 2016. Further, workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure, at 5.1 years, while food service workers had the lowest median tenure, at only 1.9 years. Other factors beyond the worker’s control, like widespread layoffs that change with the business cycle, can affect job tenures as well.

 

Because longer tenure is associated with age, the aging of the workforce could influence tenure rates in the years ahead.

 

For more details on this month’s employment numbers, check out the July Employment Data Digest, PPI’s monthly review of job trends for those ages 55 and over.

 

Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. As part of the Financial Security Team, she identifies policy challenges and opportunities related to workers age 50 and above. Through research and analyses of emerging employment trends, she develops policy options to inform AARP’s strategy on work and jobs, including helping older workers find and retain jobs.

 



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