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Workplace Benefits and Resources for Caregivers

May 06, 2019 4 min read Nina Mann Jackson

Key Takeaways

  • Growing numbers of senior adults need daily assistance.
  • Many of the family caregivers assisting them are also balancing full- or part-time work.
  • More employers now offer options and resources that can benefit their caregiver employees.

 

In an effort to attract and retain the best workers, many of today's employers offer employee benefits programs that go far beyond the minimum requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires them to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave. If you are caring for an older adult family member, or if you anticipate needing to provide care in the future, it's worth looking toward your employer for possible assistance.

And many of us will provide care at some point: 40% of Americans aged 65 and older need daily assistance, and 70% will need assistance at some point1. And, in most cases, family members are the ones providing that care — family members who are also working to support themselves and their families and, in many cases, caring for their own children or grandchildren as well.

 

Working and caregiving: A difficult balance

In fact, of the more than 40 million unpaid caregivers of older adults in the United States, 61% of them are employed, including nearly half who work full time2. If you're one of the millions of Americans who's juggling your own care with a responsibility to care for a parent or other older adult, you know the challenges of finding a balance.

Frequently, working caregivers must take time or energy away from their work to provide care. Employee caregivers reported having to make a workplace accommodation such as going in late, leaving early, taking a leave of absence, turning down a promotion or retiring early because of their caregiving responsibilities3.

 

 

Employers taking notice

Employers are finally taking note of the unique needs of their caregiving employees and have responded by offering benefits and resources to support them. In 2014, 43% of employers reported they were offering Elder Care Resource and Referral (help in finding resources and information about elder care), up from 31% in 20084.

In recent years, some companies have launched comprehensive benefits that have included subsidized in-home care for seniors, free access to senior-care advisors, workshops on how to manage work/life/caregiving balance, professional assistance with paperwork and planning, resources for long-distance caregivers, and legal advice. And when the leaders of industry change their offerings, other companies often follow suit.

 

Common caregiver benefits

Your workplace may already offer some of these benefits — or may be considering it. Here are some of the more common ones to look for:

Care subsidies — Some employers are offering to subsidize care for older adults who depend on their employees. That may include regular care or backup care on days when your usual plans fall through. If your employer offers these options, it can save you time and money (and stress). Between 2008 and 2014, the percentage of employers offering Dependent Care Assistance Plans for elder care grew from 23% to 41%5. These plans offer the ability to set aside money from each paycheck before taxes to pay for elder care expenses. A smaller percentage of employers offer access to respite care — short-term care given to a family member by another caregiver so the primary caregiver can rest or take time off.

Extra paid time off — More than 100 industry-leading companies have added or expanded paid leave policies in the past three years6, but many of those policies are targeted to new parents rather than caregivers for older adults7. If your company doesn't yet offer extra paid time off, leadership may be swayed to do so by new tax advantages: Employers that provide paid family and medical leave to workers who earn less than $72,000 a year are now eligible for a tax credit of 12.5% to 25% of the cost of each hour of paid leave, depending on how much of the worker's earnings the benefit replaces8.

Dependent care accounts — Many workplaces offer a dependent care flexible spending account (FSA), which allows you to set aside up to $5,000 tax-free to use for your family's care-related needs. The amount you can save depends on your personal tax rate, but employees who take full advantage of the account may save up to about $2,000 per year. Many employers refer to this account as a “child care FSA," because the funds can also be used toward the cost of child care. However, the same type of account can be used for the costs associated with caring for older adults. So, if your workplace provides this benefit, consider taking advantage of it.

 

What you can do next

Talk to your HR representative to find out about resources your employer provides for caregivers and how you can benefit.

 

Footnotes

1 Home Care Association of America, 2016
2 Pew Research Center, 2015
3 AARP, National Alliance for Caregiving, 2015
4 Families and Work Institute, 2014
5 Families and Work Institute, 2014
6 National partnership for Women and Families, 2018
7 AARP, 2018
8 IRS, 2018

 

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer covering personal finance, insurance, human resources, and education for a number of national brands. Her work also appears in publications such as Entrepreneur, CNBC.com, Working Mother, Fortune, and CNNBusiness.com.

 

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