Employer Solutions for Family Caregivers

Caregiving is an increasingly important workforce management issue

Perhaps the most important reason for employers to help working caregivers is that it is an increasingly important issue. Even if you don’t know about them, you have current or potential caregivers among your employees.

Caregiving is a Growing Issue

According to a recent AARP study, Caregiving in the United States 2015, about 18% of adults provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the past year. Even though this figure is significant, it still may dramatically underestimate the potential impact of working caregivers on your business. Nearly half of U.S. workers expect to have caregiving responsibilities over the next 5 years, even if they don’t now, and most have the potential to become a caregiver at some point in the future. It’s a big workforce management issue that will only get bigger. Consider the following:

  • Employed adults are more likely than adults who are not employed to have caregiving responsibilities. This means that the issue of caregiving is actually more common in the working population than the unemployed population (16% of the current workforce provide unpaid care to an older adult, for instance, with smaller proportions providing unpaid care to younger people, making it a critical issue for employers).
  • Without support from employers, caregiving responsibilities may result in concrete work-related issues. The large number of employees who are caregivers, combined with the aging of the population, means that about 1 in 5 employed adults may need to take a substantial amount of leave from work in the next 5 years to care for an adult. 
  • The number of potential caregivers in the total population is shrinking relative to the number of people who need care. By 2030, there will be only 4 potential caregivers for every potential care recipient. There will be fewer people in the age range when large numbers of people used to provide or arrange care for a family member (from the mid-40s to the mid-60s) and more people in the age range to receive care (age 80 and up). This means that the burden of care will increasingly shift toward younger generations who are more likely to be working. 

Quick Guide: Assessing caregiving needs using employee surveys

Caregiving situations are diverse, but it may be helpful to think of this diversity in terms of the forms and the variations in the type of care that employee caregivers provide.  A good first step to determining the particular needs of the caregivers in your workforce is to survey them to learn more.  

  1. Make confidentiality key: Only 44% of working caregivers say that their supervisors know they are providing care for a relative (see Caregiving in the United States 2015 for more details). Many caregivers may be reluctant to tell their managers or supervisors about their family responsibilities. Ensure that all caregivers know that their responses to the survey will not be connected back to them or affect their employment in any way. If possible, a human resource manager can distribute the surveys (e.g., using online surveys such as surveymonkey) rather than having direct managers and supervisors involved in the process.
  2. Ask about more than just whether they provide care – ask about the amount of time they spend, the financial and emotional impacts, and the kinds of services and supports they would find most helpful. Existing surveys can provide a model. For instance, here are some sample questions, modified from Caregiving in the United States 2015, that can help you get started: 

    How many adults are you currently caring for/did you care for in the past 12 months? (Choose one)

    • One
    • Two
    • Three or more

    Who are you caring/did you care for? (Choose all that apply)


    Spouse or partner 
    A Parent-in-law 
    Grandparent or grandparent-in-law 
    Adult child 
    Uncle or aunt 
    Other relatives 
    Grandchild (adult)


    Other nonrelative 

    Thinking now of all the kinds of help you provide/provided, about how  many hours do/did you spend in an average week?  (Choose one)

    • Less than 1 hour 
    • 1 to 8 hours 
    • 9 to 20 hours 
    • 21 to 40 hours 
    • 41 or more hours

    How much of a physical strain would you say that caregiving is for you? (Choose one)

    Not a strain at all                                                                                    Very much a strain

    1                               2                               3                               4                               5

    How emotionally stressful would you say that caregiving is/was for you? (Choose one)

    Not a strain at all                                                                                    Very much a strain

    1                               2                               3                               4                               5

    How much of a financial strain would you say that caregiving is/was for you? (Choose one)

    Not a strain at all                                                                                    Very much a strain

    1                               2                               3                               4                               5

  3. Repeat your survey. Your workforce is always changing, so consider repeating your survey at regular intervals, such as 6 months or a year. Consider combining this survey with some of the survey questions in “Quick Guide: Employee Outcomes”


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