Behind the inclusive caregiver policies and practices in three different organizations

The pandemic made companies rethink what caregiving means. Up until then, most firms had crafted their policies around parents alone. However, as journalist Mitra Kalita pointed out, widespread illness and the dearth of professional caregivers for young and old alike during the pandemic, meant that many people now had newfound caregiving obligations. In the aftermath, organizations are recalibrating to better support all types of caregiving employees, instead of just parents.

Underscoring this effort is the fact that caregiving is a commitment that lasts, on average, 4.5 years, according to the 2020 AARP report on Caregiving in the US. The burden of caregiving, therefore, is likely to affect these employees over many years and cause them to behave in ways that typical managers may not quite understand.

The impact of caregiving on work

Statistics reveal that 53% of caregivers surveyed went in late, left early or took time off from work. Another 15% went from full-time to part-time work. Some received a warning about their performance and some others turned down a promotion. In some cases, caregivers don’t apply for promotions because they feel they won’t be able to manage their caregiving responsibilities. This points to a lack of support from employers, a fact that explains another disturbing statistic:  79% of caregivers lack access to caregiver support benefits at their workplaces. A few workplaces, however, have chosen to take a different path.

  • Deloitte – an early proponent of caregiver leave

As early as 2016, Deloitte was recalibrating its definition of who needed time off for caregiving. In addition to paid parental leave, it now gives an additional 16 weeks paid leave annually for caregivers looking after a spouse, domestic partner, parent, adult child, or sibling with a serious health condition.

  • Microsoft – offering backup care when it matters

Microsoft too was an early advocate of caregiving leave – offering four weeks of annual paid caregiver leave in over 110 countries. In the US, Microsoft also offers 150 hours backup care to support employees through those moments when they cannot manage their work and fulfill their caregiving duties. And in order to give caregivers of children with special needs some time off for self-care and mental wellbeing, it offers 672 hours of at-home respite care.

  • Pfizer – care assistance

When employees encounter difficulties as they navigate their specific caregiving duties, the first thing they do is to look online for advice and resources. Unfortunately, only 27% felt there were the “right amount of resources” available online to help with their caregiving responsibilities. Fortunately, organizations like Pfizer have stepped in with assistance – in Canada, its Seniors’ Care Assistance Program connects caregivers with a registered nurse who can help them understand and navigate senior care options for their family. In the US, this service is offered through Cariloop. Also, in a progressive move, Pfizer has defined family to encompass “not just dependents, but anyone for whom the colleague is a caregiver.”

The greatest moral support, though, can be offered at the manager and peer level. This is because without a caregiver-positive work culture and ample encouragement to avail benefits, most of the benefits offered by organizations go underutilized as caregiver-employees are anxious about appearing uncommitted to their jobs. This, in turn, sends mixed signals to employers, making them assume that employees are not overburdened.

You can start by verbalizing that caregivers are providing valuable support to their loved ones and acknowledging that they are doing their best to perform their job responsibilities as well.

Secondly, ask your team and your peers about their caregiving responsibilities. The simple act of asking might surface caregiving situations that may have been under the radar so far. This can make way for the next step of addressing employee needs with respect to caregiving, as well as juggling work and self-care amidst these duties.

Polls and surveys are also extremely useful to understand the unique circumstances of caregiver-employees and identify the specific benefits that can help them thrive. And by better addressing the needs of such employees, we can set them and our organization up for success.

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