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Demographics, Family Caregiving Demands Call For Modernizing Leave for Caregivers, Says New AARP Report

A new report from AARP argues for improving family leave for working caregivers

For Immediate Release

June 17, 2013                                                                                        

Contact:

Nancy Thompson

202-434-2560 | media@aarp.org | @AARPMedia

 

Demographics, Family Caregiving Demands Call For Modernizing Workplace Leave For Caregivers, Says New AARP Report

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report from AARP argues for improving family leave for working caregivers, citing the growing population of older Americans, increasing numbers of family caregivers on the job, and escalating demands and stress on caregivers.  Keeping Up with the Times: Supporting Family Caregivers with Workplace Leave Policies points to three policy solutions to ease the burden on both caregivers and employers: unpaid family and medical leave, paid family and medical leave insurance, and earned sick time.

“The aging of the population, changing workforce demographics and increasing demands on family caregivers are colliding at the expense of working caregivers,” said Lynn Feinberg, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor with the AARP Public Policy Institute and author of the report.  “Even as workforce participation and caregiving demands are increasing for caregivers, workplace policies protecting or supporting them have remained stagnant.”  According to the report, close to three out of four women of prime caregiving age are in the workforce and seventy-four percent of adults with eldercare responsibilities have been in the workforce at some point in their caregiving.  One in four retirees reports leaving the workforce earlier than planned to care for an ill spouse or other family member.   One in five workers age 45 to 74 expects to take time off for caregiving in the next five years.

Policies to support better workplace benefits for families have traditionally limited their focus to an employee’s illness or to caring for children or other immediate relatives, the report notes.  The Family and Medical Leave Act limits leave for caregiving for elderly relatives to parents or spouses, effectively excluding those caring for in-laws, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. In addition, because FMLA leave is unpaid, it is irrelevant to many low-income workers.  It is also totally unavailable to those working for small companies with fewer than 50 employees.  Nearly two-thirds of workers eligible for FMLA who didn’t take it reported they couldn’t afford to take unpaid leave or were afraid of losing their job. Many other low wage workers lack access to sick leave—paid or unpaid – the only other supportive workplace policies available to most family caregivers.   

A number of other states and municipalities have established programs or regulations that enhance federal or workplace leave policies for caregivers. New Jersey enacted a family leave insurance program that provides benefits to family member caring for a child, spouse parent or domestic partner.  The Rhode Island General Assembly is considering similar legislation, according to an AP report out today.  Keeping Up with the Times notes that paid family leave enhances employee loyalty, saves businesses the cost of turnover and can improve productivity as well as reduce employer health care costs.

Finally, Keeping Up with the Times: Supporting Family Caregivers with Workplace Leave Policies recommends a series of approaches to improve options for caregivers, among them:

·         Expanding relationships covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act,

·         Adoption of policies at the state level that exceed current federal eligibility requirements for the FMLA,

·         Optimizing worker productivity and retention at both the federal and state level by promoting access to paid family leave insurance.,

·         Public awareness campaigns to educate workers about existing family leave policies,

·         Employer implementation of family-friendly workplace policies, e.g., caregiver support programs in the workplace, referral to supportive services in the community and flexible workplace policies,

·         Improved data collection on working caregivers with eldercare responsibilities, especially by federal agencies, and

·          Further policy research into the interaction of workplace caregiver policies and healthcare access.

Keeping Up with the Times, on the web at http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-06-2013/supporting-family-caregivers-with-workplace-leave-policies-AARP-ppi-ltc.html, is the third in a series of reports on caregiving and work from the AARP Public Policy Institute.  Previous reports covered the challenges of juggling caregiving and work (Understanding the Impact of Family Caregiving on Work, http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-10-2012/understanding-the-impact-of-family-caregiving-and-work-fs-AARP-ppi-ltc.html) and discrimination against caregivers on the job (Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination, http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-08-2012/insight-protecting-family-caregivers-from-employment-discrimination-AARP-ppi-health.html).  

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.

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