AARP: Workplace Policy Solutions Needed for Working Family Caregivers


AARP: Workplace Policy Solutions Needed for Working Family Caregivers

 AARP released a report this week called Keeping Up with the Times: Supporting Family Caregivers with Workplace Leave Policies that shines a light on the number of working family caregivers and offers three policy solutions to help working family caregivers.

According to the report:

  • close to three out of four women of prime caregiving age are in the workforce;

  • 74% of adults with eldercare responsibilities have been in the workforce at some point in their caregiving;

  • one in four retirees reports leaving the workforce earlier than planned to care for an ill spouse or other family member;

  • one in five workers age 45 to 74 expects to take time off for caregiving in the next five years.

Policies to support better workplace benefits for families have traditionally limited their focus to an employee’s illness or to caring for children or other immediate relatives, the report notes.  The Family and Medical Leave Act limits leave for caregiving for elderly relatives to parents or spouses, effectively excluding those caring for in-laws, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. In addition, because FMLA leave is unpaid, it is irrelevant to many low-income workers.  It is also totally unavailable to those working for small companies with fewer than 50 employees.  Nearly two-thirds of workers eligible for FMLA who didn’t take it reported they couldn’t afford to take unpaid leave or were afraid of losing their job. Many other low wage workers lack access to sick leave—paid or unpaid – the only other supportive workplace policies available to most family caregivers.

A number of other states and municipalities have established programs or regulations that enhance federal or workplace leave policies for caregivers, including:

  • New Jersey, which enacted a family leave insurance program that provides benefits to family member caring for a child, spouse parent or domestic partner.

  • The Rhode Island General Assembly, which is considering similar legislation, according to a recent AP story.

Keeping Up with the Times notes that paid family leave enhances employee loyalty, saves businesses the cost of turnover and can improve productivity as well as reduce employer health care costs.

Finally, Keeping Up with the Times: Supporting Family Caregivers with Workplace Leave Policies recommends a series of approaches to improve options for caregivers, among them:

  • Expanding relationships covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act,

  • Adoption of policies at the state level that exceed current federal eligibility requirements for the FMLA,

  • Optimizing worker productivity and retention at both the federal and state level by promoting access to paid family leave insurance.,

  • Public awareness campaigns to educate workers about existing family leave policies,

  • Employer implementation of family-friendly workplace policies, e.g., caregiver support programs in the workplace, referral to supportive services in the community and flexible workplace policies,

  • Improved data collection on working caregivers with eldercare responsibilities, especially by federal agencies, and

  • Further policy research into the interaction of workplace caregiver policies and healthcare access.

Keeping Up with the Times is the third in a series of reports on caregiving and work from the AARP Public Policy Institute. Previous reports covered the challenges of juggling caregiving and work (Understanding the Impact of Family Caregiving on Work, and discrimination against caregivers on the job (Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination.

What do you think of the report's findings? And, do you agree with the suggested policy solutions? Please share your thoughts in our comments section, below.


--Listen, watch and read our podcasts, video chats and articles that help you manage caregiving and your career;
--Join our Working and Caregiving group--Tell your employer about our Corporate Caregiving Support Program

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