HR Professionals See More Employees
Struggle with Elder Care

by The Society for Human Resource Management

Research indicates that more people are caring for aging relatives, and that this often affects employee productivity. Employee expectations regarding elder care benefits have increased, and, as a result, most organizations expect costs for these benefits to increase in the next five years.

Nearly a Quarter of Large Organizations See Turnover

(Alexandria, Va., December 9, 2003)—Research indicates that more people are caring for aging relatives, and that this often affects employee productivity. Human resource (HR) professionals say employee expectations regarding elder care benefits have increased, and, as a result, most organizations expect costs for these benefits to increase in the next five years.

Productivity
HR professionals estimate that nearly 15 percent of employees in their organization deal with elder care issues. But, a significant percentage of respondents witnessed employees who missed a full day from work (59 percent), encountered workday interruptions (44 percent) or stress-related health problems (29 percent). Sixteen percent of all respondents said they had experienced turnover or attrition due to elder care issues.

The impact elder care has on employees is even more profound depending on the size of the organization. HR professionals from large organizations (500+ employees) are much more likely to report workday interruptions, strained employee/manager relationships and missed appointments and meetings than HR professionals from small (1-99 employees) and medium-sized (100-499 employees) organizations. Twenty-three percent of respondents from large organizations and 21 percent from medium-sized organizations report seeing turnover due to employees challenged with elder care issues. Only four percent of small organizations said the same.

Employer Response
While SHRM research indicates a quarter of organizations offer some kind of elder care benefit, nearly one-third of HR professionals agreed or strongly agreed that employers have an obligation to provide resources and assistance for employees facing elder care issues. The biggest challenge, however, is cost. Nearly 40 percent said elder care benefits are too costly for their organization, and one-third said there would not be enough employees utilizing elder care benefits to justify changing current benefits packages.



The most common benefit employers offer is unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for elder care reasons (88 percent), but FMLA leave does not apply to organizations with fewer than 50 employees. Most organizations (76 percent), regardless of size, provide unpaid leave for elder care issues, but the length of leave varies by organization. Benefits providing financial support for elder care come most often in the form of dependent care flexible spending accounts, which are offered by 64 percent of organizations. Most HR professionals indicated the benefits could be used for employee’s parents and the parents of their legal spouse. The majority of respondents said their organization makes exceptions to formal policies to provide more flexibility to employees facing elder care issues.

Fifty-eight percent of HR professionals agreed or strongly agreed that it was necessary to increase the contribution amount permitted under dependent care flexible spending accounts to help employees financially deal with elder care issues. Nearly the same percentage agreed or strongly agreed that individual tax incentives for the purchase of long-term care insurance covering older relatives would help defray the costs of employer-provided long-term care assistance.


 

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Founded in 1948, SHRM currently has more than 500 affiliated chapters within the United States and members in more than 100 countries. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org.

 
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