Imagine taking all your vacation time to care for a sick child, not just one year but every year. Consider a middle-aged woman who’s worked for decades to achieve her dream job only to decline it when it’s offered so she can care for an aging parent. Think about the skilled laborer with a severely disabled child; he must quit his job to take care of his son but then loses his health insurance.
Many caregivers must make impossible choices to balance their job, career trajectory, and family caregiving responsibilities. In 2020, there was a reported 53 million caregivers in the US, and less than half of US companies track their employees’ caregiving responsibilities.
Women are more likely to be the primary caregiver and often must turn down promotions, forgo career “dreams” for more flexible work, take unpaid time off, and even leave full-time work to care for a loved one. In 2014, the loss of income for caregivers to the elderly alone was estimated to be $522 billion a year. With the baby boomer population growing older, these numbers are only expected to increase.
So what can we do to support caregivers? Where do they most naturally fit into L&D initiatives? Our eyes have turned to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). DEIB is a complex set of initiatives and programs requiring special care and attention; many forget about the caregiver.
In a CNBC/Survey Monkey report from 2021, 78 percent of more than 8,000 workers surveyed said DEIB at their organization is important to them. And the next generation of workers finds it even more important. The top concern for high school and college-aged graduates when picking an employer is the fair treatment of all employees. We can’t leave caregivers behind when we think of DEIB.
Exceptional caregiving responsibilities can significantly affect the caregiver’s ability to find employment fitting their dependent’s care demands and sustain an upward career or job trajectory. Childcare resources for youths with disabilities are limited, and care demands are ongoing and often crisis-driven. Affordable and trustworthy senior care can be minimal as well.
How can L&D professionals support caregivers and ensure we include them in the DEIB conversation and framework?
What caregivers need from their managers and employers are:
- Flexibility in work hours to accommodate unpredictable needs of healthcare issues and appointments
- Paid sick time for the above-mentioned factors
- Above all else, empathy and kindness
We offer a top-five list of how L&D professionals can start creating a culture of equity and inclusion for caregivers:
1. Train supervisors on how to address caregiver needs.
- Understand what the care looks like and why empathetic support in the workplace is crucial to DEIB.
- If a caregiver decides to approach their supervisor, what should the supervisor say? How can they best support the caregiver while balancing business needs with employee equity demands?
- Provide communication training around discussing employee caregiving needs and business requirements.
2. Integrate family caregiving into your learning content as building blocks.
- Use bite-sized, focused learning experiences that can be stacked and rearranged to create custom learning paths serving the organization and learners’ needs.
3. Hold family caregiving workplace productivity workshops for employees.
- Workshops can be held directly for the workforce, the caregivers/employees, L&D professionals, managers, and leadership.
4. Design a company-wide strategy.
- Detail a strategy on how managers and leaders should address family caregiving responsibilities with their direct reports.
- Consider research-based best practices and in-the-flow-of-work learning opportunities.
5. Train HR and leaders on the latest US government laws about this topic.
- Several laws exist in this country to safeguard caregivers. Research the Association Provision in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and state or local paid family leave policies.
While DEIB has come a long way in the last decade, there is still much work to be done to include caregivers. As the number of caregivers continues to rise with an aging baby boomer population and the country’s overall population, the need for more support, training, and company-wide strategies will rise. To prepare your organization and support your talent, make a plan today to get your caregiver DEIB initiatives underway.