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Dollarphotoclub_70318620Most organizations concentrate a lot of effort on initiatives that support parents in the workplace, but there’s another important family consideration that’s creeping up on employers.

For the first time ever, there are now more people in Canada age 65 and over than there are under age 15 (Statistics Canada). With an aging population, an increasing number of employees are also juggling caring for adult dependants—over 1/3 of Canadian employees are also providing informal care to a family member or friend. Caregiving can be incredibly stressful, and can result in decreased morale, performance, and engagement at work.

With Family Day just around the corner on February 8th, this is the perfect time to examine and define your elder care policies.

Do you have initiatives in place to support your employees as they negotiate work and caregiving responsibilities?

No? Here are 6 strategies to help you accommodate caregivers:

1. Prepare in advance.

While most employees becoming parents have 9 months to prepare for their child’s arrival, employees leaving work to care for a parent or elderly relative often have no time to prepare. This means that there is often little lead time for employers to accommodate them, and having an established procedure in place to support caregivers in the workplace is essential.

2. Know your responsibilities.

Ensure caregivers feel supported by including an elder care policy in your employee handbook, and making sure you know your legal responsibilities. In BC, Family Responsibility Leave entitles employees to 5 days each year of unpaid leave to meet responsibilities related to the care or health of an immediate family member. Compassionate Care Leave entitles employees to 8 weeks of unpaid leave within a period of 26 weeks to care for a gravely ill family member. Once you’re meeting Employment Standards requirements, think about adopting extra initiatives tailored to your organization. Consider going beyond the minimum by providing a few extra days a year of paid time off designated for emergency family situations.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

It’s not only Baby Boomers and Generation Xers balancing the demands of acting as a caregiver. Many millennials are also sharing the responsibility of looking after an elderly relative. As well, an increasing number of men are acting as caregivers; male caregivers may be less likely than women to self-identify, and less inclined to seek support by talking about their at-home responsibilities with coworkers or employers.

4. Use your open-door policy.

During check-ins, give caregivers an opportunity to self-disclose. Many times, caregivers won’t self-identify, which means that employers find it harder to accommodate their needs. Dealing with a parent who’s had a fall, or is recovering from an illness can be isolating and affect work performance, so encourage employees to let you know if they’re feeling stretched because of a situation at home. Putting their other responsibilities on your radar means that you can help them feel supported.

Put employees’ home responsibilities on your radar and help them feel supported. Twitter_logo_blue

5. Increase flexibility.

Consider easy ways you can increase flexibility and accommodate caregivers’ schedules. Can you let them work from home a day a week to cut down on care costs? Could you allow them to work flexible hours so they can drive family members to appointments when necessary? Employees who are caring for an elderly relative will appreciate having the opportunity to flex their hours and better balance their work and home lives.

6. Become a resource.

Caregivers are often thrust into the role unexpectedly. Help them negotiate their new obligations by learning about initiatives available to support caregivers in your community. Compile a list of resources in advance and have them readily available, so you can pass information on to help them feel less overwhelmed at work.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Healthy habits and self-care strategies become even more important when an employee is dealing with the extra stress of caring for an ailing elder. Provide healthy snacks to support caregivers with hectic mornings, or take meetings outside to encourage those with no time to make it to the gym to get some exercise. Tailor your support strategy to the individual—think about what will make their lives easier.

Take a look around and see where else you could smooth the way for caregivers—it doesn’t have to be complicated!

Some helpful links:

Self Care for Caregivers

Report from the Employer Panel for Caregivers

Guide to Balancing Work and Caregiving

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