Despite putting in a significant amount of time and effort, family caregivers rarely receive financial compensation. Many Americans who assist with the care of a family member juggle their caregiving responsibilities with jobs in order to earn a living. Among these caregivers, 75% of them work at least 30 hours per week, which can pose very real challenges relating to job performance, stress and mental health.
Fortunately, there are options that may be available to family caregivers in the form of employee work benefits.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Established in 1993, this federally mandated labor law, known as the FMLA, requires employers that meet certain criteria to provide their employees with unpaid job-protected leave for reasons relating to medical care, either for themselves or to assist in the care of a family member. Additionally, the law states that the employee’s health insurance coverage must not be interrupted and must continue throughout the period of their leave with the same terms and conditions that were in place before the leave was taken.
Eligible employees are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave per year for a variety of reasons, including the birth or adoption of a child; a serious illness or injury that makes the employee unable to perform the duties of the job; or to provide care to the employee’s spouse, parent or child experiencing a serious health condition. If you struggle to balance the duties of a job with the role of a caregiver, check with your employer to see if the FMLA is an option.
Paid Family Leave
Paid family leave is similar to the FMLA, with the main difference being that the employee will receive pay despite being on temporary leave. While this is not federally mandated like the FMLA, the number of states adopting paid family leave policies is on the rise.
Currently, 14% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave, and this number continues to increase. Each state sets their own rules about the reasons for taking leave and the length of time an employee can be absent while receiving pay, so options may vary depending on where you live.
Working From Home
As technological capabilities continue to expand, more and more workplaces are offering employees the opportunity to work remotely. This can be a significant timesaver, especially for someone accustomed to long commutes. Depending on the position, working from home may sometimes equate to more flexibility—a quality that can be essential for working caregivers.
According to research compiled by Fundera, working from home was steadily on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of telecommuting employees having grown 173% since 2005. Although policies on working from home have been trending upward over the past few years, Fundera still reports that only 7% of all employers in the United States provide the flexibility to telecommute, so if you are working from home temporarily due to the pandemic, it might take some extra negotiating to make that status permanent.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are voluntary programs offered by employers. Their goal is to help employees navigate significant life challenges that have the potential to affect job performance. All parties benefit from these programs: Employees gain support, resources and job security in the midst of challenges, which can help lower stress and improve quality of life, while employers reduce turnover rates and avoid costly training expenses in the event that an unsupported employee is terminated due to poor performance. Additionally, these programs are a boon to company culture, reduce healthcare costs due to stress and mental health issues, and help reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents and other safety issues.
EAPs are confidential and may include assessments, counseling and outside referrals to relevant services. Circumstances that may qualify an employee for use of an EAP include serious medical conditions for themselves or family members, financial or legal issues, substance use disorders, and trauma management. Not all employers offer EAPs, but considering the ways in which they help organizations optimize success, many employers view them favorably.