- Generally, it’s more important to have benefits schemes that match life stages and provide practical resources to match life and family needs.
- Most employee assistance programme providers offer eldercare support, be that online resources for targeted legal, financial and care services, or just having someone else to talk to.
- One of the most powerful starting points for employers is to make a dedicated place on their intranet where carers are recognised and all the relevant resources are listed.
The need for eldercare support in the workplace has become somewhat of an increasingly complex situation, as people are now living longer than they used to. It has also been exacerbated by Covid-19 (Coronavirus), as there has been a shortage of social care and continued anxiety around the topic.
Benefits on offer
In terms of what employers can do, it is not just about helping to find nursing homes. Christine Husbands, managing director of RedArc, notes that employees need to know how to get practical help and what services are there to support them. “This can be an emotional and difficult time and really impact staff’s mental health, resulting in them having to juggle work with their caring responsibilities. What would really help is flexibility and understanding from employers in case they suddenly need to leave very quickly or alter their working hours or location around caring,” she says.
If employers already have any providers that can support people with care needs, they need to ensure their services are regularly promoted.
Jennifer Liston-Smith, head of thought leadership at work and family solutions provider Bright Horizons Work and Family Solutions, explains that some of her clients subsidise up to 20 days of care per year, enabling people to deal more effectively with emerging needs. “Some clients provide an allowance of back-up care per dependant instead of per employee, which is a considerable help to those sandwich generation employees with both childcare and eldercare commitments. Generally, it’s more important to have benefits schemes that match life stages and provide practical resources to match life and family needs,” she says.
Compared to two years ago, there are now more benefits which either cater to eldercare specifically, or can be tailored.
Lead consultant at Benefex David Palman’s biggest recommendation would be for employers to look at their existing benefits and speak to the providers, who often have add-ons or upgrades which may cover family members. “Most employee assistance programme providers offer eldercare support, be that online resources for targeted legal, financial and care services, or just having someone else to talk to,” he states.
Financial pressures of caring
Employers need to help employees to work effectively and deal with any financial consequences that may arise. This may mean providing staff with education on what financial assistance is available.
Palman explains that if a worker has been caring for someone for many years, it is likely that a lot of the financial burden is falling on their shoulders. “The usual financial education doesn’t just help the employee’s finances, as most financial education services include specific resources for carers,” he comments.
A holistic eldercare strategy
Creating an eldercare support strategy needs to be multifaceted because the role of a carer can often change. “Employers should offer emotional, physical and mental health support for the carers to help them care for themselves too. There is a lot of guidance out there on how to deal with each illness and which local services would be best placed to help. We often arrange for short-term care in the home or respite care in a facility so the carer can take some time out and have a break,” says Husbands.
Employers can put policies in place to help carers manage the physical and mental load; it can be helpful to build from existing resources, and perhaps make a dedicated place on their intranet where carers are recognised and all the relevant resources are listed. “Then ask what else you can provide specifically for carers. Meanwhile, many employers already provide some paid or unpaid carer’s leave, or match annual leave with extra leave for carers when that leave is taken for caring,” says Liston-Smith.
Technology can centralise the resources, education and tools employees who are carers need. Palman is of the opinion that making this information easily accessible is critical. “There is an opportunity to guide an employee through this discovery, and it is important to think about that employee journey, ensuring we don’t just create a maze of content.”