Report: A third of workers have left a job because of caregiving responsibilities

Three-quarters of US workers surveyed are caretakers for at least one dependent person – be it a child, ill spouse, parent, or elderly relative.

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There’s a flashpoint in caregiving on the horizon that will affect both workers and employers, new research from Harvard Business School shows, as more Americans enter the age where they will be expected to care for their children and aging parents simultaneously, as well as an increase of single parents. The report focuses on the current reality and offers advice on how employers can help employees with their caregiving load by offering benefits that would specifically help them.

More and more employees are going home to a second job. Three-quarters of US workers surveyed by Harvard Business School are caretakers for at least one dependent person – be it a child, ill spouse, parent, or elderly relative. Rising costs in health care and professional caregiving mean they have to do it themselves, at least most of the time. Naturally, this double shift competes with workers’ time and energy at work, and 80% say their caregiving affects their performance on the job.

Sometimes, caregiving and working aren’t compatible at all. A third of caregivers have said they’ve had to leave a job (voluntarily) because of their caregiving responsibilities. A higher number of men (38%) left their jobs over caregiving than women (27%).

Employer-employee divide

Most employers aren’t aware of the strain their employees are under, according to the report, and therefore workers don’t get the support they need. 52% of employees do not keep track of their employees’ caregiving responsibilities. And only 24% of employers responded that caregiving might have an influence on workers’ performance.
Employees, in turn, cost the company in terms of turnover, as well as “productivity costs such as absenteeism and presenteeism.” They are also reluctant to disclose they are caregivers, for fear it might have a negative effect on their opportunities at work. 59% agreed with the statement: “Caregivers are perceived to be less committed to their careers than non-caregivers.” Significantly more men (40%) than women (25%) agreed with that statement.
Meanwhile, 63% of employers agreed with the statement: “My organization has an inclusive culture that treats caregivers fairly,” showing just how far apart the two sides are on the issue.
The most common factors that contributed to caregivers quitting were the unaffordability of paid help for caregiving (53%), being unable to find qualified paid caregiving help that was trustworthy (44%), and the inability to meet work responsibilities because of increased caregiving responsibilities (40%).
Here is an area where the employer could step in, according to the report, and “view the issue of caregiving through the lens of talent management, rather than exclusively as another potential expensive benefit.”
After all, caregiving often isn’t just a one-time event, like maternity leave. According to the AARP, “42% of caregiving “provide support to at least one of their parents, 15% for a friend, neighbor, or another non-relative, 14% for a child with special needs, 12% for a spouse or partner, 7% for a parent-in-law, and 7% or a grandparent or grandparent-in-law.”
As the research shows, caregiving is a part of life. It’s time for employers – and benefits – to catch up.

Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.