Family caregiving is today’s issue just as childcare was in the 1980’s. More than 25 million Americans are working at a job and caregiving at home – that’s nearly one out of five workers.
Some companies have begun to recognize the need to address caregiving issues. But every company should. Data show that there are significant costs of caregiving to American businesses – to the tune of $50 billion annually!
Productivity costs to U.S. employers that can be attributed to caregiving are estimated to be as much as $34 billion a year – primarily due to absenteeism, shifts from full-time to part-time work, and workday interruptions.
But those aren’t the only costs. Companies face another $14 billion each year in higher employer-related health care costs associated with caregiving. That’s because employees with caregiving responsibilities have a higher incidence of major health conditions (such as depression, hypertension, and diabetes) than non-caregiving employees – directly as a result of the stress from their caregiving challenges.
The chronic stress of the caregiving role drives higher medical claims from caregiving employees, costing employers on average 8% more in health care costs per year. Health care costs are even higher for blue-collar workers (11%) and male employees (18%) who are caregivers.
And if a worker gets too stressed from juggling their work with caregiving at home and decides that they need to quit their job, the company faces even more costs. Recruiting and training new employees to replace caregiving employees costs businesses another $7 billion.
It is, therefore, in the best interests of employers to support their employees who are caregivers in order to lower their own costs as employers. This is an issue employers simply cannot afford to ignore.
Since two out of every five adult Americans are family caregivers today, caregiving is already a national phenomenon. Caregiving will only increase in prominence in the future. The population of 35 million elders will double by 2030. So the number of people who need eldercare will continue to grow rapidly as the population ages. The number of adult children caring for a parent has tripled over just the past 15 years.
No company can avoid hiring employees who happen to be family caregivers. Most family caregivers (62%) are in the prime working age between 25 and 54. Rather than avoiding them, companies must support them. What’s more, companies ignore this problem at their own peril. There are more family-related discrimination cases than ever before. In the years 2000-2010, the number of cases filed by workers caring for children or aging parents quadrupled, and the average verdict was $500,000!
That is why the time to prepare is now. Supporting employee caregivers helps companies lower their costs. The good news is that employers don’t have to start from scratch to figure out how to support their caregiving employees. There are off-the-shelf resources available to help employers put a program of their own in place with relative ease.
Healthy, happy (or at least less stressed) employees are more productive employees – employees better able to fulfill the jobs they were hired and trained to do. And in the end, that’s good for business and everyone involved.
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John Schall is CEO of the non-profit Caregiver Action Network. For more information about supporting your caregiving employees, visit WorkingFamilyCaregivers.org