LIGHTENING THE LOAD
In The Juggling Act, The Conference Board of Canada recommends
six steps in retaining employees and helping them stay productive
while they’re coping with eldercare responsibilities:
1. Assess the extent to which eldercare obligations are already
2. Consider measures that are already in place.
3. Align strategies with needs.
4. Be flexible in terms of response.
5. Prioritize managerial and organizational support.
6. Keep communication open and adjust accommodations
Where to start? There are numerous ways to begin to assess el-dercare
needs within the organization. For instance, “Contact your
employee assistance program (EAP) and find out how many peo-ple
are accessing services,” said Spinks. “A quick way to get a ‘pulse
check’ is to host a lunch-and-learn session and see who shows up.
You could also look at your employee surveys to see whether you
have a question about caregiving.”
“A starting point would be through a survey or informal conver-sation
– or probably quite a few informal conversations – seeing
what’s going on and what’s not,” said Stewart. “Most of the ap-pointments
required for eldercare are in the middle of the day,
so it’s easier in a professional services firm; it’s more difficult when
you have a lot of shift workers. Training for managers is anoth-er
Sensitivity is key.
“Whether it’s a large or small organization, employers need to
take a step back and create a culture shift where employees feel en-abled
to ask for the support they need,” said Enright. “And where
employers can be flexible to demonstrate empathy and offer sup-port
while still supporting the needs of the business.”
In a smaller business, support could be as simple as a list of ven-dors
and community service providers.
“Recommend resources to assist employees in their home life,”
THE PERFECT PROGRAM?
What does a great eldercare leave program look like? First of all, it
has flexibility, says Spinks.
“An employee has the ability to access an eldercare leave with
little notice. They can use some vacation time or sick days. If it
suddenly becomes a home-care situation and they need to be off
for a few weeks, it should be retroactive to the first day they started
it. They should have the ability to fracture it: ten weeks total could
mean two weeks now and two weeks later – unlike maternity
leave, which is continuous.”
This requires an agile workforce and supportive workplace, says
“If you work for an organization where you can be open and
honest and say, ‘I need to be with my mother this week,’ and put
a bounce-back message on your email about your availability, it’s
a very different story than when you have to pretend you’re sick,”
A great program is also empathetic, says Enright.
“I’ve met with daughters who felt frustrated because of the
unpredictable nature of caring for an aging loved one: at 9 a.m.,
things are fine; at 1 p.m. they’re in the ER. I tell them that this
journey is not going to be wrapped neatly in a nice package with a
bow – it’s going to be unpredictable, messy at times.”
There are many practical accommodation strategies, beginning
with existing EAP services.
“Programs are trying more and more to make their benefits
programs and some of their perks more flexible,” said Stewart.
For instance, “There are organizations that offer different types
of concierge services to the employees that could be leveraged
for eldercare. The EAPs can refer you to facilities, to programs,
to all different kinds of resources; it’s a good place to start for
Home Instead Senior Care’s Daughters in the Workplace website
offers a range of free tips and resources, plus a quiz on caregiving
Ultimately, says Spinks, accommodating caregiving responsibil-ities
is a good way to build employees’ loyalty, “but if you ask them
to make a choice between care for a loved one or their employ-ment,
most people are going to choose the former.” n
This Is Me / Shutterstock.com
“HUMAN RESOURCES AND
BUSINESS LEADERS MUST
UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT
OF ELDERCARE ON THEIR
EMPLOYEES, AS WELL AS ON
THE ORGANIZATION ITSELF.”
– THE CONFERENCE BOARD OF CANADA
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ SEPTEMBER 2017 ❚ 23