Senior Care and it’s Cost on Business

How helping employees benefits the bottom line

Forward thinking employers are well aware of the benefit of working with employees to help them balance their responsibilities as a parent with their work commitments. This issue is addressed through various employee assistance programs which help employees source child care, work flexibly and telecommuting.

What many employers overlook in their planning is the caring responsibilities faced by employees with older parents and the impacts this could have on business. The predicament of the so called “sandwich generation” of employees is summed up well by American author Gail Sheehy, who wrote Passages:

“With parents living routinely into their 90s, a second round of care giving has become a predictable crisis for women in midlife. Nearly 50 million Americans are taking care of an adult who used to be independent. Yes, men represent about one third of family caregivers, but their participation is often at a distance and administrative. Women do most of the hands-on care. The average family caregiver today is a 48-year-old woman who still has at least one child at home and holds down a paying job.”

Caring for an elder can be very disruptive for employees and can seriously impact productivity, morale and work life balance. The added stress will in many cases cause increased absenteeism and an inability to focus. These factors can have a huge impact on business and according to the MetLife Caregiving Cost Study, US companies lose up to $33 billion each year as caregivers struggle to balance their careers and the competing needs of their increasingly dependent family members. President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM) Susan R. Meisinger says the increasing need for elder care is an inevitability and employers will need to factor it into their planning.

“Employers have an opportunity to either anticipate and manage it in a way that benefits both the employer and employees, or let it smack them in the face a few years from now, dragging down productivity and increasing turnover as a result. Organisations simply can’t afford to ignore the cost of this reality.”

Employer Strategies for Elder Care

With Australia’s rapidly ageing population and the significant business impacts of elder care businesses need to start looking at ways to help employees deal with their family responsibilities while still facilitating their professional motivation and career progression. Some of these strategies are described below:

Flexible work opportunities

The notion of sitting in an office from 9-5 every week is increasingly becoming redundant as employers look at ways of holding onto their employees through making work more flexible. Enabling employees to work from home, take extended leave, work a compressed week, job share and so on enables employees to balance their work and family commitments. Employees which know they have access to options such as these may also feel less stressed and better able to manage when an elder crisis occurs.


Conducting in house education and communication programs designed to inform both managers and employees about the issues associated with elder care is an important step in minimising the potentially disruptive effect it could have on the workplace. Employees who feel supported and equipped to cope with care emergencies in the workplace will be less stressed and more likely to make efforts to balance their professional and personal responsibilities rather than resorting to sick days. Training programs for managers will ensure team leaders are sensitive to the needs to employees and potentially more responsive a result which will have the effect of boosting staff morale and retention rates.

Employee benefits

Many Australian companies offer a well planned and employee focused range of benefits which have been designed to improve working life for staff and encourage them to plan early for any caring responsibilities they may have.  Care Corporates Care for Seniors program is a great example of this our comprehensive range of online products and services will include access to the best elder carers in Australia, a range of articles and resources to help employees design a care plan and access to back up care in the case of an emergency. Research has shown that services such as these deliver strong business benefits for a business at a relatively low cost. In fact, AARP reports that companies in the USA reap a $3-$14 return on every $1 they spend on elder care benefits. Other benefits include a reduction in costs associated with absenteeism, an improved ability to attract and retain the best talent, boosts in staff morale and loyalty towards the company and significant productivity gains. The Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare Study found that employers looking to implement a successful elder care program would be advised to:

  • Understand their workforce and their needs through an employee survey or before developing the program or a customer satisfaction survey post implementation.
  • Make the elder care program available to all employees equally.
  • Train supervisors and managers about elder care.
  • Educate employees about the caregiving process and ways in which the employee’s program can support their goal of continuing to be a family caregiver and a productive worker.
  • Consider programs that help employees plan for their caregiving responsibilities.


Balancing Elder care and Career by Laura Steele

Society of Human Resource Managers

The Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare Study



This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in September 2012