Caregiving benefits growing in popularity

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Paid leave continues to be a hot topic among employers. As large companies like Netflix and municipalities such as Nashville have strengthened their family leave benefits, caregiving perks also rank high on workers’ must-have list of benefits.

Caregiving is among the top 10 employee health and wellness benefits priorities for most employers, according to a new survey by Northeast Business Group on Health and AARP, and most employers agree that in the next five years, caregiving is going to become an increasingly important issue among employees.

But while a majority of employers consider themselves “caregiving-friendly,” there is “wide variation in the support employers provide for employee-caregivers,” says Laurel Pickering, president and CEO of Northeast Business Group on Health. For example, some provide programs tailored to those employees, in addition to leave time that can be used for caregiving, but others don’t, she says.

The survey finds that when it comes to becoming more caregiving-friendly, employers cite barriers including an absence of benchmarks and best practices, a lack of financial resources, and a lack of data to identify caregivers

Most employers surveyed permit employees to use sick, vacation or personal days for caregiving, but fewer than half have programs designed specifically for caregivers. These can include support groups or counseling services. The same is true for subsidized in-home back-up care for those being cared for.

Further, workplace access to free or low-cost workplace resources to support caregivers is only made available by a few employers. For those offering such resources, awareness among employees about benefits available for caregivers is low. An overwhelming number of survey respondents say employees are only “somewhat” or “not very” aware of resources available to caregivers.

Just over half of respondents believe it to be commonplace for employees to spend up to 20 hours per week in a caregiving role. “Family caregiving is an issue that affects the vast majority of us. We are either caregivers now, have been in the past, will be in the future or will need care ourselves,” says AARP Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond.

Hank Jackson, the Society for Human Resource Management’s president and CEO, said in a blog post earlier this year that a carefully analyzed and applied family leave benefit can be a differentiator in today’s hyper-competitive talent marketplace. “Even medium-sized and small enterprises can offer budget- and family-friendly policies, such as flexible schedules,” Jackson wrote. “The important thing is to develop a workplace where an employee’s work-life needs are valued and supported … across an employee’s life cycle.”

Expanded leave policies and coaching, and wellness or support services designed specifically for caregivers top the wish lists of most employers, the study notes.

“By recognizing and supporting [the needs of caregivers], employers can improve productivity and foster a stable and healthy workforce,” LeaMond says. “It is great to see so many leading employers open to understanding this issue better, and we are pleased to be working together to help America’s family caregivers.”

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