If an employee management issue costs an organization an estimated $2,441 per employee ($17.1 Billion to U.S. employers) does that affect the organization’s risk management behavior? What if this same issue causes employees to lose focus, undergo stress, and have things occur in their personal world that are beyond their and the organization’s control?
Of course it does.
However this is a situation that is becoming more and more common as employees become more involved in the caregiving for parents and spouses as they age. Changing demographics are increasing risks to organizations across the country as employees over the age of 50 begin to assume more responsibilities forcaregiving/eldercare.
But there are solutions. When risk management professionals work with humanresources departments to institute programs and work-life benefits addressing caregivers, employees can remain (as much as possible) focused, accountable, ethical and present. This has the double result of mitigating risk while improving lives of those we work with.
According to the most recent MetLife Mature Market Institute Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers (June 2011 – http://bit.ly/Y7rjI8), the total estimated cost to employers for full-time employees with intense caregiving responsibilities is $17.1 Billion. The percentage of adult children over the age of 50 providing personal or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years. More than a quarter of adult children, who are mostly Baby Boomers, provide this care.
What this means is a substantial percentage of your company’s workforce is already going through this extremely stressful life stage; a life stage that causes employees to lose concentration when they work, increases absenteeism, causes frequent partial absenteeism, workday interruptions, higher employee turnover, increased use of FMLA leave, and employment status changes from full-time to part-time. In addition to the loss of productivity from these causes, as adult children go through the caregiving process, their personal stress levels increase, they get sick, and use more health care benefits.
Not addressing eldercare issues in the workplace creates both hard and soft costs that affect the company’s bottom line. The hard costs include employee retention and replacing those employees when they quit, partial or full absenteeism when employees are caring for a loved one or undergoing an unexpected crisis (much of elder care involves unexpected crises – caregivers cannot plan elder care like they can child care), a decrease in productivity because of stress related to having to be gone from work, and the worry that their manager will not understand why they are absent.
Soft costs relate to decreased productivity of the employee because of stress, anxiety, depression, and physical health issues related to the caregiving process. A large portion of these issues are created by a work environment that is not supportive of what they are going through.
In addition, what makes it difficult for companies to adopt an elder care policy for their workers is that there are no laws directly requiring organizations to have them. However, the EEOC has issued both enforcement guidance (under related employment theories such as sex and color of caregivers – see http://1.usa.gov/16g63R) and best practices for employers who have workers with caregiving responsibilities (http://1.usa.gov/AL90H).
It’s not a question of if, but by how much the cost of not addressing eldercare issues within your workforceincreases company’s costs and workforce risks. To manage and lower these risks, your company must think about how to address a problem which will only grow as our population ages.