SUMMARY: Strategies for employers to support their employees who are caregivers for family members or loved ones with mental health or other health issues.

An increasing concern

According to a report compiled by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, very high levels of stress are reported by 16.5% of the population in family caregiving roles. The report states that Canada’s aging population means higher projected numbers of people with dementia and other chronic illnesses. This may result in an increase in the number of family caregivers and consequently, an increase in the population subject to excessive stress.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) states that one in four Canadians is providing care to family and/or close friends. Many are struggling to balance caregiving obligations with work responsibilities. When an employee is a caregiver of someone with mental health issues there can be a significant impact on the employee's ability to function productively in the workplace.

The CHRC notes that this is creating issues for employees who are struggling to balance work and caregiving, and for employers that have concerns about increased absenteeism, stress-leave and loss of productivity.

The CHRC adds that studies have shown that employers that allow flexible work arrangements have been able to reduce absenteeism, foster employee loyalty, improve morale and retention, and increase productivity. This would be especially beneficial for employees who are caregivers.

Strategies to support caregivers

It is important for the employer to have a collaborative conversation to determine how it  can provide support to allow an employee to stay productive while meeting the needs of a family member with health related issues. Some strategies include:

  • Offering flexible scheduling, flexible task assignment and, if possible, flexible work-at-home arrangements.
  • Demonstrating supportive behaviours that show that the organization values the employee.
  • Having a plan for situations when the employee has to leave suddenly, or unexpectedly cannot come to work.
  • If necessary, providing the employee a private space to make calls and care arrangements.
  • Managing co-worker concerns and reactions.
  • Ensuring that the workplace culture supports overall employee well-being.
  • Apprising the employee of the resources that may be available through the organization's EAP, benefits or healthy workplace plans or programs.
  • If appropriate, providing the employee with contact and other information about resources within the community.
  • Establishing regular check-ins with the employee to see how they are doing.

Additional Resources

The following are links to resources that may be of interest to you. If you click on a link you may enter a third party website not maintained or controlled in any way by us or our affiliated companies. For more information, see Legal and Copyright.

A Guide to Balancing Work and Caregiving Obligations – Collaborative approaches for a supportive and well-performing workplace
Comprehensive guide provides tips for developing accommodation solutions that are in harmony with human rights law. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of the employee, the employer, unions and/or employee representatives. Information provided courtesy of the CHRC.

Resources for Families
Videos, online forums and other resources specifically for family members of individuals with a mental illness.