Quite a few things have changed over the course of the last few years due to the pandemic. It has affected work and personal obligations for employees, and many employees feel as though they must choose between providing necessary care for their loved ones and doing their job at work.
Changes in schedules and work locations caused a host of worries. People tried to take care of their partners, spouses, children, older family members, and those with disabilities as they attempted to adjust to the new normal.
43% of the people who responded to the Homethrive 2021 Employee Caregiving Survey said that they were distracted, worried, or focused on caregiving rather than their jobs for five or more hours per week. 20% said they were distracted at work more than 9 hours a week. These individuals want to take care of their loved ones who need care, but they want to do their jobs.
Employers can help employee caregivers by being more understanding of how the laws work. To help clarify matters on discrimination laws for caregivers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released new guidance. HR managers will want to read and adhere to these guidelines to ensure EEOC compliance.
What Is a Caregiver?
Close to 23 million people in the United States are working either a full or part-time job while providing caregiving duties to loved ones. Due to the pandemic, more and more people started providing care for children or other family members while also trying to work.
It is important to keep in mind that it’s not just the pandemic that’s driving up the number of employees who are also caregivers. The population is living longer. The population of adults who are 65 and older is going to be more than double what it was in 2010 over the next couple of decades. The population of those over 85 is likely to triple. This means more people will need caregivers, and these caregivers will often be family members.
Therefore, policies and benefits in the workplace that support caregivers are more important than ever.
Why Support for Employee Caregivers Is Important
Employers should always act with empathy. We’re all human, and we all have different needs, fears, and anxieties. With so many people worried about how they are going to take care of their loved ones and continue working, it’s necessary to find ways to support employees.
By supporting employee caregivers, you will find that it helps to promote loyalty among employees. If you are taking care of the members of your organization, they are going to be more likely to continue working hard for you. If you treat them poorly and don’t care about their personal situations, they may consider looking for a new job.
Supporting employees also demonstrates that you are empathetic. According to a report from GuardianLife.com, 72% of caregivers vs. 53% of non-caregivers ranked empathy and flexibility from their employers as being highly important.
Employer Best Practices
Consider these employer best practices for workers with caregiving responsibilities.
Allow for Flexible Working Arrangements
People want and need to have more flexibility when it comes to how they are working. You can achieve this for many employees by providing various work times, as well as by offering asynchronous remote work options.
Create an Employee Resource Group of Caregivers
Having a group of employees at the workplace who are all caregivers can help to provide everyone with some support. Seeing that others are going through similar situations and having space to talk with one another and share resources can be powerful. This can help build a culture of understanding and sensitivity around this issue in your workplace.
Change Your Approach to PTO
How do you handle paid time off currently? You may want to consider offering enhanced PTO or sick-leave packages for specific caregiving situations. Flexibility is key, so it’s important to analyze and identify areas your organization can be even more adaptable than it already is.
Clearly Communicate Available Leave Benefits
Make sure your employees fully understand the leave benefits your company offers and that is legally required. This includes things like family caregiver leave. Be sure to explain the Family Medical and Leave Act along with any necessary, state-specific family leave laws. These laws can be difficult to comprehend, so develop resources that clearly discuss employee rights and explain those resources to caregivers who may need to understand them.
End the Stigma
People shouldn’t feel bad about being both an employee and caregiver. Always make sure you are listening to the discussions of the employee caregivers. Know where the pain points are and where they are struggling. Find ways to support them. It helps them to understand that other people are going through similar situations and that they are supported. You could even encourage managers to discuss their own caregiving experiences if they are comfortable doing so.
Important Compliance Guidelines for Employers
Employers need to be sure they understand and follow the EEOC guidance for their employees. One of the first things to consider will be the EEO policies. It is important to apply and enforce a strong EEO policy that addresses the sorts of conduct that could be considered unlawful discrimination along with the caregiver protections under the law.
Additionally, all of the managers need to be properly trained on the policies the company creates, as well as the legal obligations and the work-life policies the company has.
Take the time to understand the guidelines for the EEOC and make sure all managers know and understand how to implement these rules. They should also know who to talk with if they aren’t sure how to proceed.
HR should also be aware and ready for any complaints from employees that come up regarding discrimination against caregiving employees. It is important to act swiftly and effectively in these cases.
Check out some training videos from KnowledgeCity.com that can help, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity compliance video or Navigating and Managing Emotions in Life Situations. These can help you better understand how to handle employee caregivers, along with other situations that may arise.
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