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How Employers Can Support Working Caregivers

Eldercare benefits and other caregiver programs are powerful retention tools

The Cost to Employers

Companies are also seeing the emotional and physical toll that caregiving takes on its workers. In a 2010 Metlife study on the health care costs of employers, 86 percent of employees caring for adults reported fair to poor health as a result of the caregiving responsibilitites.6 Businesses suffer, too, by having to pay high health insurance costs and in lost productivity. That doesn’t count the promotions or assignments workers turn down that require travel or relocation away from aging relatives.

Businesses that don’t offer benefits or address eldercare wind up paying for them. A 2006 study by the MetLife Market Mature Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving states that U.S. companies pay between $17.1 billion and $33.6 billion annually, depending on the level of caregiving involved, on lost productivity. That equals $2,110 for every full-time worker who cares for an adult. Here’s another way to look at the issue.

Eldercare costs businesses:

  • $6.6 billion to replace employees (9 percent left work either to take early retirement or quit)
  • Nearly $6.3 billion in workday interruptions (coming in late, leaving early, taking time off during the day or spending work time on eldercare matters)
  • $5.1 billion in absenteeism

What some AARP Best Employers are doing:

  • On-site eldercare — Oakwood Health care
  • Long-term insurance for parents, in-laws, grandparents and grandparents-in-law — Cornell University
  • An elder care office providing guidance, counseling and referrals — University of Kentucky
  • Out of pocket eldercare expenses with tax-free dollars — SSM Health care

What other businesses are doing:

  • Freddie Mac has a free eldercare consultant and access to subsidized aides for a relative up to 20 days.
  • Verizon Wireless offers seminars on eldercare issues and allows full-time workers 80 hours a year in back-up care, 40 hours for part-time and $4/hour for in-home help.
  • At the Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird LLP, workers can donate vacation time to colleagues who have used up theirs to care for family members.

Once again, because it’s so important: Addressing caregiver support issues in the workplace is not just benevolent. It’s smart business. Keep in mind that every $1 companies spend on eldercare benefits reaps a $3 to $14 return.

Next page: What can employers do? »

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