Leader support for employees who are caregivers

Tips to support employees who are caring for loved ones remain productive and healthy. Understanding and flexibility can reduce stress at work for caregivers.

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Balancing caregiving and work

According to a report compiled by the Mental Health Commission of Canada | PDF, 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. All of these approaches could be especially beneficial for employees who are caregivers.

Strategies to support working 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, task assignment and, if possible, 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 Caregiver resources including what 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

A Guide to Balancing Work and Caregiving Obligations – Collaborative approaches for a supportive and well-performing workplace | PDF

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.

Family Resources

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

Contributors include.articlesMary Ann BayntonMental Health Commission of Canada

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