As members of the “sandwich generation,” workers age 50+ are often caught between finding the time and resources to attend to the needs of both younger and older generations while meeting their work obligations. AARP Best Employers understand that helping employees care for loved ones, while compassionate and generous, also makes good business sense. Offering access to referral services, information workshops, extra time off during the year, or even on-site childcare—all are ways employers help workers meet their caregiving needs.
The 2008 AARP Best Employers recognize that caregiving means many things, and assistance can take many shapes. Caregiving issues can arise with children, grandchildren, aging parents, or ailing family members. The employers’ forms of assistance include on-site resources, workshops, paid time off, flexible schedules, planning and referral services, and counseling. Of this year’s Best Employers, 94 percent offer elder-care referral services, 30 percent offer backup elder care, and 14 percent offer on-site elder care. A comparison of the 2008 with the 2007 Best Employers shows noteworthy increases in the percentage that offer elder-care referral services (from 84 percent in 2007 to 94 percent in 2008), and the percent who provide paid time off specifically designated for caregiving (from 34 percent in 2007 to 50 percent in 2008).
A few noteworthy examples of the Best Employers’ caregiving benefits include the following:
Lee Memorial Health System – In 2007, this Fort Myers, Fla., health care system received a grant from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs to implement a caregiver-support program. The program teaches employees and volunteers how to care for aging family members. In addition, with many employees relying on adult day care in order to work, Lee Memorial Health System offers discounted rates at local adult day care facilities.
L.L.Bean – The retailer in Freeport, Maine, provides employees access to referrals for meeting elder-care needs. Additionally, L.L.Bean’s employee assistance program offers educational information, including an on-site, multi-session program called “Taking Care of Mom, Dad, and Me.” This program helps employees navigate the array of Medicare, legal, and community-resource information associated with elder care.
Cornell University – In Ithaca, N.Y., many of Cornell University’s mature employees have caregiving responsibilities for grandchildren, while others must care for both children and older relatives. The university offers various programs and forms of assistance, including allowing employees three days per year, drawn against their paid sick leave, to care for family members or dependents.The university also provides up to six months of unpaid family health care leave. In addition, Cornell offers a “Life Cycles” workshop series, which gives employees access to Cornell’s experts on a variety of family issues.
George Mason University – The Fairfax, Va., university has active support groups for working mothers and for employees with relatives in elder care. Additionally, the university sponsors an elder-care program incorporating a seminar series. Topics include “Caregiving From a Distance,” “Navigating Medicare,” Elder-Care Mediation,” and “Balance for Boomers and Their Parents: Thinking on Your Feet.”
Saint Vincent Health System – The health care system, in Erie, Pa., hosts an on-site child care and preschool center for employees’ children and grandchildren. In addition to offering assistance with younger family members, Saint Vincent provides an “Elder Kit” planning guide to help employees with such topics and issues as financial planning and banking, personal property, keeping a daily medical log, pet information and instructions, important dates, and emergency contacts.
With the makeup of the American family continuing to evolve, employers must be flexible and creative in the ways they support employees who are responsible for supporting others. Successful programs and assistance encourage work-life balance and provide business continuity, ultimately benefiting the employees, their loved ones, and the organization.