Work and Caregiving


Human resource departments typically work with employees on many issues that may affect their work productivity. There are programs for drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and illness, but today, more and more companies nationwide are directing their HR departments to provide resources, education and group help for a wide range of caregiving issues. And it makes financial sense.

According to recent research, about 17 percent of U.S. full-time workers act as caregivers. They report missing an average of 6.6 workdays per year, which amounts to 126 million missed workdays each year. In 2011, 36 percent of caregivers missed one to five days while 30 percent reported missing six or more days.

Employees with caregiving responsibilities cost their employers an estimated 8 percent — an additional $13.4 billion per year — more in health-care costs than employees without caregiving responsibilities.

Research indicates that many employers would be willing to offer caregiving support services, if only they were aware of the need. The National Alliance for Caregiving, for one, estimates that half of working caregivers are reluctant to tell their supervisor about their caregiving responsibilities.

According to a Gallup poll, employers can help by providing:

  • An employee assistance plan to promote discussions about emotional distress experienced by the working
  • Access to health counselors or “ask a nurse” for information on the care receiver’s condition;
  • Access to counselors or others to make referrals and give advice about caregiving facilities.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also considers workplace flexibility a “dynamic relationship defining how, when, and where work gets done as well as how careers are organized — that works for both the employer and employee,” noting that it is an important business strategy. For instance, according to SHRM, one of every five employees provides eldercare — a number that will increase to almost half of the workforce over the next several years.

In this issue of the Business Magazine, we’ll talk with Highmark about the ways in which the insurer is finding new ways to enhance its benefits model that assists members — including their caregiving employees and
covered family members.

In addition, we’ll hear from John Gennaro, recently appointed executive director of the Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center, about the numerous services that are available to veterans and their caregivers in the region.

There are numerous benefit options that can assist employees and their families with the issues associated with caregiving. Contact the Manufacturer & Business Association’s HR Services Division at 814/833-3200 or 800/815-2660 to learn more about the resources that can help you, your employees and your organization.