3 Reasons Why We’re Failing Caregivers In the Workplace and What We Can Do Different

Copyright 7.2014: Scientific Cowboys – Cindy Laverty

Family caregiving statistics are mind-boggling.

More than 67 million Americans are caregivers and they’re providing over $450 billion a year in free care and services for a loved one with no formal training.

The workplace is failing employee caregivers and new solutions are needed. In this article we’ll three key reasons we are failing employee caregivers and what we as employers, health plans and healthcare professionals can do different around support, culture and flexibility.

  1. Active Engagement- Not EAP
  2. Culture
  3. Time Off/Flexibility

By the Numbers:

  • 50% of employees aged 40+ are caregiving in some capacity
  • 59% of the nation’s unpaid caregivers are in the workplace
  • 66% of caregivers are women and 34% men
  • 74% of adults with eldercare responsibilities have been in the workforce at some point in their caregiving, but many have left due to the stress of choosing between work and family
  • 1 in 4 retirees reports leaving the workforce earlier than planned to care for an ill spouse or family member.
  • 1 in 5 workers age 45-74 expects to take time off for caregiving in the next five years and fears losing their job.
  • Caregiving costs an estimated $33 billion annually to business with another $13 billion in associated health care costs, due to the stress and illness associated with caregiving.

1. Active Engagement-Not EAP

Problem: Employee caregivers are hiding below the radar and are often tired, stressed and may be in personally declining health status. Many organizations believe that Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are effectively designed to address the needs of employee caregivers. Unfortunately EAP is rarely designed as an active engagement tool. EAP assists the small percentage of employees that actively seek out assistance. Since EAP is reimbursed on a  capitated model per employee per month (PEPM) the system is not incentivized to drive volume use.

Solution: Engage employee caregivers – actively. If these caregivers self identify,  statistically they are 90% likely to seek assistance. How can we encourage caregiver self identification? Active engagement. Support groups,  internal dialogue, payroll flyers, employee newsletters and seminars are just a few ways to actively engage employee caregivers.  An example is Caregiver 360 a recently developed program option that offers the elements needed for success such as caregiver coaching, hands on assistance and access to trusted resources WORKLIFE SOLUTIONS-CENTIPEDE CAREGIVER 360.

Payment for Caregiver Worklife Solutions will likely benefit from a combined PEPM plus an engagement fee based upon usage. Caregiver solutions are one of those programs that when actively used benefits both the employee AND the employer.

2. Culture

Problem: Caregiving has a stigma attached to it and many employees feel discriminated against when it comes to caring for family members. The Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings Law School has reported a massive increase in lawsuits (400%) as employees charge discrimination based upon their caregiving responsibilities, whether for children or aging parents.

Solution: There is an opportunity to create a culture of openness that leads to self identification. As noted above, employee caregivers that self identify as a caregiver are 90% likely to seek some form of assistance which can lead to better health status and enhanced productivity.

3. Time Off-Flexibility for Caregiving

Problem: Work place policies traditionally have limited the focus to the employee’s illness or to caring for children or other immediate relatives. The Family and Medical Leave Act limits leave for caregiving for elderly relatives, parents or spouses, effectively excluding those caring for in-laws, grandparents or aunts and uncles and is unavailable for those employees working for companies with less than 50 employees.

Nearly two-thirds of workers eligible for FMLA reported they did not take advantage of the program because they can’t afford to take unpaid leave or they were afraid of losing their job.

Solution: An expanded definition of FMLA to include caregiving for an expanded circle of relatives and significant others. Employer consideration of a reduced compensation level based upon tenure to help employees during time off.


Family caregiving is not going away. It’s not just a social issue; it’s a critical workplace issue.

  • Support in its current form is not effective.
  • Workers are hiding their “second” job of caregiving, let them know its okay to discuss.
  • Current legislation and employer policies are not working and are in need of reevaluation.

It’s time to begin implementing family-friendly workplace policies that include: caregiver support programs in the workplace; referrals to supportive services in the community; access to affordable services to help with the caregiving responsibilities, as well as flexible workplace policies.

The good news is that research shows that providing the needed support and onsite programs for caregivers can reduce the negative and work-related effects of caregiving and improve overall well-being.

The bottom line is that workplace intervention for caregiving support helps create happier, healthier and more loyal employees, and helps workers do both jobs successfully.


About the Author:

Cindy Laverty is nationally recognized as “The Fairy Godmother of Caregiving”  and is a published author and industry speaker on caregiving and the challenges facing caregivers today. Mrs. Laverty is a member of the CENTIPEDE Care Solutions team seeking to bring a fresh, forthright voice to caregivers, caregiving and the struggle of caregivers in the workplace.

Mrs. Laverty blogs for CENTIPEDE CARES and is a new featured writer for Scientific Cowboys. Questions on this article may be addressed directly to claverty@heops.com.


The only way around is through. — Robert Frost

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