Do Family Caregiving Benefits Exist for Employees?
The juggling act of caregiving for someone, whether it’s a child, an aging parent, or a partner, can be emotionally and physically demanding. For many people who maintain employment, balancing work responsibilities with caregiving duties is a challenging reality. Many working caregivers may wonder if there are any supports available to them to help them manage their job and their caregiving responsibilities, but they probably don’t know where to look. In this blog post, we explore programs and benefits that provide support to family caregivers who also work. We also shed light on the unfortunate lack of access to these benefits for many, and discuss what employers can do to support their caregiving employees.
Employee Benefits for Family Caregivers
1. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law in the United States that enables eligible employees of private companies with more than 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually. It applies to employees caring for a family member with a serious health condition, including a child, spouse, or parent; for a parent during their child’s first year of life; or someone attending to their own illness. In addition, individuals caring for military service members may take up to 26 weeks per year. While FMLA offers job security during leave, it does not provide financial compensation.
2. Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)
Eleven states in the U.S.—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington—have implemented Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) programs. These programs provide eligible employees with partial wage replacement while they take time off to care for family members, including newborns, adopted children, or ill relatives.
3. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide counseling, resources, and support for employees dealing with caregiving stress, mental health challenges, or other issues. EAPs can help caregivers manage their emotional well-being while fulfilling work duties.
4. Flexible Work Arrangements
Some employers offer flexible work arrangements, including remote work options, compressed workweeks, or flexible hours, to accommodate caregivers’ schedules. This flexibility can make it easier for employees to manage caregiving responsibilities while staying productive at work.
Innovative Caregiver Support for Employees
Over the past decade there’s been a rise in companies and services that aim to assist family caregivers who work. Below are some forward-thinking companies that partner with health plans or employers to empower caregivers:
- Wellthy: Wellthy partners with employers to offer employees a care dashboard, on which they can manage the care of their care recipient. Caregiving employees also get a personal care coordinator to help guide them when they are in need. Wellthy covers everything from legal documents, to in-home care, to finances, and medical care.
- Trualta: Trualta partners with health plans and other organizations to provide caregivers with a comprehensive caregiver skills training and support platform. Caregivers can search by a health condition or behavior to learn about how to best deal with their unique situation, and they can connect with other caregivers to share tips through a chat feature. Trualta also offers care coaching and virtual support groups to complement its content offerings.
- ianacare: ianacare has developed a support platform for employee caregivers that features personal social circles of family and friends, employer benefits, local resources, and a team of care navigators. Employers who offer the ianacare platform provide employee caregivers with a one-stop shop for caregiving resources and support.
- Papa: Employee caregivers often need an extra set of hands. Papa offers “Papa Pals,” who provide companionship and assistance when it’s needed. Employers who partner with Papa can offer access to Papa Pals as a benefit to caregivers who may need help getting groceries, walking their dog, cooking, or hanging out with an older relative for a few hours.
The Access Gap: Lack of Support for Family Caregivers
While these programs and benefits offer crucial support to some family caregivers, many individuals still lack access to such assistance. Several factors contribute to this access gap:
- Employer Size and Location: Smaller businesses with less than 50 employees may not be subject to FMLA regulations, leaving employees without job protection. Additionally, PFML programs are currently available in 11 states and the District of Columbia, leaving many caregivers without paid leave options.
- Limited Awareness: Employees may not be aware of available federal and state programs and benefits, and don’t know where to search for them.
- Financial Barriers: Unpaid leave under FMLA can be financially burdensome for caregivers, especially those living paycheck to paycheck. Many caregivers cannot afford to take unpaid time off work.
- Stigmatization: Caregivers may fear stigmatization or career repercussions if they disclose their caregiving responsibilities, leading them to hide their challenges rather than seek support.
Employer Support for Caregiving Employees
Employers can take proactive steps to bridge the gap and provide valuable support to caregiving employees:
1. Education and Awareness
Employers should actively educate employees about available benefits and programs for family caregivers. Creating a supportive, open work culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their caregiving responsibilities is essential.
2. Paid Leave Policies
If not mandated by state law, consider implementing paid family and medical leave policies. Paid leave provides financial relief to caregivers, allowing them to care for their loved ones without sacrificing their income or job security.
3. Flexible Work Arrangements
Offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or adjusted schedules, to accommodate caregiving responsibilities. Flexibility can help caregivers balance their duties and maintain their productivity.
4. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
Enhance EAPs by expanding mental health and counseling services to support caregivers’ emotional well-being. Encourage employees to utilize these resources without fear of stigma.
5. Supportive Policies
Adopt policies that explicitly support caregiving employees, including policies that prevent discrimination or retaliation based on caregiving responsibilities.
6. Advocate for Legislation
Support initiatives that advocate for nationwide paid family and medical leave policies and caregiver support legislation. Employers can play a vital role in shaping public policies that benefit both their employees and society as a whole.
Consider Employee Caregiving Benefits
Family caregivers who also work face unique challenges that demand support from both their employers and society. While various programs and benefits exist to assist caregiving employees, access to these resources remains unequal. Employers can make a significant difference by promoting awareness, offering paid leave, and fostering a workplace culture that encourages openness about caregiving responsibilities. By taking these steps, employers can contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate workforce, ensuring that family caregivers receive the support they need to thrive both at work and at home.