What do small businesses and elder-care emergencies have in common? Well, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, about $33.6 billion reasons. Less than 10% of companies offer elder-care resources which makes it difficult for employees. These employees are caught in the middle, working for their employers and being caregivers to their parents, plus taking care of their children, if they have any. When an individual is the primary caregiver for a parent, it is not uncommon for him or her to occasionally miss work. Productivity can decrease, thus affecting other team members and the organization as a whole.
In 2006, the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving released a study stating the cost of $33.6 billion that is associated with elder-care emergencies is based on employees “absenteeism, workday interruptions, work leaves and cutbacks in hours, among other factors. Some workers quit altogether when faced with parents’ illnesses, causing employers to spend money to replace them.”
As the number of people 65 and older continues to rise rapidly, the issue of small businesses preparing for elder-care emergencies continues to move to the forefront of conversation. Below are ways small businesses can prepare for this societal change:
•Free Information. Providing information on resources can save employee’s time and employer’s money. Websites, including http://www.eldercare.gov and http://www.n4a.org, can help find local services such as transportation, meals, home care, caregiver support and legal and financial assistance.
At a National Council on Aging site, http://www.benefitscheckup.org, an employee can determine which federal and state assistance programs their relatives and loved ones are eligible for. Encourage employees to learn about options for their parents before an elder-care emergency strikes.
•Paid leave. Be informed about employee rights. In California, businesses with two or more employees must allow their employees up to six weeks of leave annually to care for a seriously ill parent or family member. During that time, the employee receives partial pay, but it comes out of a state fund for this purpose (employees pay into the fund while working). The employee has to obtain a doctor’s certificate confirming the family member’s illness in order to get this benefit.
According to Labor Attorney Richard S. Rosenberg, California employers with paid sick leave programs are required to allow workers to take up to 50% of the worker’s annual allotment of sick days to care for family members, no matter the size of the organization.
•Job training. Cross-training employees on different jobs at a small business can head off elder-care problems
• Flexible work arrangements. Job sharing, telecommuting and alternative career tracks can also be options for employee caregivers who need more flexibility at work.