An issue I’ve been studying for a while now is what the impact will be of employed Baby Boomers with caregiving responsibilities on their employer’s bottom line. My hypothesis is that these employed Baby Boomers will cost employers significant money as the Boomers’ caregivers responsibilities begin to bleed over into their work week and eventually into the employee’s ability to take on new work-related responsibilities or even new positions within the company.
I believe that employers will need to be proactive about instituting employee benefits that provide assistance with caregiver responsibilities such as adult day care, in-home personal care assistance for relatives, long-term care insurance, transportation assistance, flexible work schedules, and perhaps even sabbaticals.
It would seem that my concerns are valid. According to a MetLife Study on “Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers”, the percentage of adult children providing caregiving to their parents has more than tripled over the past 15 years. The estimated total lost in wages, pensions and Social Security benefits is nearly $3 trillion.
The MetLife report points out that most employed caregivers fall into the category of age 50 plus, right when individuals are normally preparing for retirement and time away from the job and the resulting loss of wages can severely impact savings for future retirement. Another consideration for employers when dealing with employed caregivers is concern for the employed caregivers’ health. It’s well documented that caregiving is extremely stressful and often negatively affects the health of the caregiver.
The Baby Boomers as a cohort are providing care for older parents in larger numbers than any other generation ever, and yet many are still caring for their own children at home. This situation adds additional stress, especially if both parents are employed and one spouse is trying to handle more of the caregiving burden than the other. Employers need to be sensitive to these possible situations in the lives of their employees and be willing to accommodate the special circumstances or requests that may be needed.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association, 6 in 10 family caregivers are employed and 66% of these have had to make some sort of accommodation in their work life because of their caregiving responsibilities. These accommodations include coming to work late to having to give up working entirely. One in 5 family caregivers have had to take a leave of absence. These types of numbers can have a profound impact on an company’s ability to conduct its business, especially considering that many of these employees are senior and are difficult to replace.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but business needs to address the issue soon. It is estimated that U.S. businesses can lose upwards of $34 billion annually due to employees need to take care of relatives age 50 years of age and older. That’s not chicken feed.