Caregivers in the Workforce

Caregivers in the Workforce
DEFINITION – CAREGIVER: A caregiver is typically a family member, or friend who willingly sacrifices time, energy and, in some cases, their entire being to tend to the needs of a loved one. For most, that means “around the clock care”.

Juggling the ever-present obligations of your work and home lives can be difficult. The time and energy demands to both can be huge. Mix in the uncertainties and complications of being a caregiver, and you have a potentially stressful situation for Employer and Employee alike.

Caregiver Stress


  • An Employee has to take their elderly parent to the doctor
  • Another arrives late because their child’s babysitter doesn’t show up on time
  • Another spends many hours on the phone dealing with their mom’s geriatric care manager and home health aide

These are all-too-common situations of caregivers in the workforce.

Employers want to be supportive of their staff’s needs, but by doing so they may be putting their company at risk. There’s no way around it. This is a critical workplace issue that must be addressed because “doing nothing” can have serious repercussions for the Company. These may include:

  • Staff members are putting in longer hours in order to cover the absenteeism due to their co-workers’ caregiving
  • Productivity suffers
  • Clients are unhappy because their work isn’t getting done in a timely manner
  • The company’s reputation suffers because client deliverables are not up to standard
  • There is a decrease in revenue as clients decide to work with the competition.

I know you agree this is an untenable situation. Here are some suggestions for what an employer can do to best manage the working caregiver situation in their company:


Employees can’t “plan” for emergencies, and when you are caregiving unexpected emergencies may happen frequently. These situations arise without warning and companies can find themselves left in the lurch. Cross-training employees, provides management with much needed flexibility and prevents a lapse in work due to one person’s absence. Cross-training employees so that they can pick up the slack means that the work can go on, deadlines are met, and clients left satisfied. (An additionalHuman Resources benefit: cross-training also offers employees variety and the opportunity to advance in the company as they learn additional skills and take on new responsibilities.)

Ambiguity in the workplace leads to confusion and management issues. It makes good business sense to establish comprehensive guidelines for workplace caregivers including your corporate policy on allowable absences, paid and unpaid leave, opportunities for flextime, and more. Being a working caregiver is stressful enough as is managing an employee in that position. Having a non-restrictive corporate strategy for how to handle the situation is best for all involved. (Employers and employees should consult the AARP Public Policy Institute’s research on supporting caregivers and workplace leave policies:

AARP Caregiving Resource Center


Employers have many opportunities to support their working caregivers, such as establishing an on-site support group, bringing in speakers to address relevant issues, and providing access to educational webinars. Employers can also assist caregiving workers by ensuring that their HR Department and front-line Supervisors are highly knowledgeable about the Company’s policies as well as the various workplace discrimination laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act.

As an Employer, show you care; by taking these steps you can better retain caregiving workers and eliminate the need for costly recruitment, hiring new employees, and re-training existing ones to cover in the caregiver’s absence. Ultimately that’s a win-win for employee and employer alike.


Taken from the July 2015 Unique Business Solutions Newsletter

September 8, 2015