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Caregiving Benefits Come into Focus for Employers

During the COVID-19 pandemic, various issues have arisen in the benefits space. Perhaps none more prudent than the need for caregiving benefits as many employees shoulder the responsibility of taking care of children or sick parents.

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However, according to a survey by the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), United States employers were already making caregiving benefits one of their top priorities before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey of 117, mostly large, U.S. employers found more than three quarter of respondents (79%) said caregiving will be an increasingly important issue over the next five years. The survey was conducted in late 2019 and early 2020.

WorldatWork’s “2019 Inventory of  Total Rewards Programs & Practices” survey found that 20% of companies offered paid caregiver leave last year.

Roughly one in six U.S. employees provides care for an ill or elderly family member. And more than a quarter of these employee-caregivers are Millennials, many of whom may also have child-care responsibilities. These caregiving employees face many challenges, including stress and anxiety, loneliness, higher incidences of certain medical conditions and financial woes. The presence of caregivers in the workforce — whether working from home or in the office — also poses challenges for employers, including absenteeism and presenteeism, reduced employee engagement and productivity, and higher health-care costs.

“The challenges for employee-caregivers have increased exponentially as a result of the risk for COVID-19 among older and vulnerable people, social distancing requirements and 24/7 child-care responsibilities” said Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH. “Employers are trying to increase support for caregiving employees by providing more back-up help, flexible working hours and access to expert resources, and some are providing relief funds to help with expenses.”

According to the “2019/2020 Employer Benchmarking Survey,” 61% of respondents said caregiving is a top priority for them. And while nearly half (45%) believe they are on par with similar organizations in developing caregiver-friendly benefits, almost a quarter (22%) see themselves as below or well below average, a clear sign there is much room for improvement. 

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • The vast majority of employers (91%) recognize that caregivers may abandon self-care, a 17% increase from 2017.
  • Employers know that employees may not be comfortable identifying their caregiving status to managers, as less than 50% thought they would be. 
  • 84% of employers believe that having a caregiver-friendly workplace is important for retaining and attracting talent, a 9% increase from 2017.
  • Over half of respondents (58%) think their C-suite is supportive of caregiving policies, a 14% increase from 2017. Interestingly, 38% were not sure how supportive the C-suite would be and that, therefore, building a business case for caregiving benefits would be necessary. 
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) provide flexible work options.  
  • An increasing number of employers are providing paid leave specifically for caregiving; the percentage of those not doing so fell from 89% to 77%.

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