The aging of America is, without question, the biggest demographic
shift in our country’s history, and it
brings into sharp focus the need for
paid leave for family caregivers. While
a smattering of state and local governments have passed laws providing such
leave, the time has come for employers
to start filling in the gaps.
This transformation of the U. S. population is a coast-to-coast phenomenon,
with the number of people ages 65 and
older now growing faster than other age
groups in all 50 states. By 2030, 20 percent of Americans will be 65 or older,
compared with 14 percent today.
Of course, as the country grows
older, so too does our workforce. People
who are 50 and older now make up one-third of our working population and,
within just five years, that will rise to
almost 40 percent.
Companies in many industries
report a shortage of skilled workers.
For businesses to remain competitive, it will become increasingly critical for them to employ older workers.
Employees who are 50 and older add
considerable value to an organization.
They are the most engaged age cohort
of all the generations, according to
AARP’s A Business Case for Workers
Age 50+ study report. They also make
Business Should Embrace
Paid Caregiver Leave
The best way for companies to prepare for the aging
of the U.S. workforce is to provide workers with ample
time off to care for their families—and themselves.
By Scott Frisch
unique and important contributions
due to their experience, professionalism, work ethic, lower turnover rate
Focus on Health
Health and wellness benefits will be key
to recruiting and retaining these workers, as they and their loved ones age.
One of the most important challenges
employers will face is the plight of family
caregivers and those caregivers’ access to
services that promote physical and mental well-being.
Today, more than 42 million family
members in the U.S.—most of whom
are between the ages of 45 and 64—
are providing an estimated $470 billion in unpaid care for older and ailing
loved ones each year. They help with
everyday activities, including bathing,
dressing, feeding, managing personal
finances and providing transportation.
And while women still shoulder most
of this work, men are increasingly
assuming such roles as well.
The majority of these family caregivers are still in the workforce. That
means about 17 percent of our workers—some 24 million employees—are
now tending to elderly and ill loved
ones in addition to doing their day
jobs. That number is certain to grow in
the coming years, and businesses will
feel the effect.
The resulting fatigue and stress of
these responsibilities often negatively
affect productivity and earnings because
of the workday interruptions and
absenteeism that result. Estimates of the
cost to employers run as high as $30 bil-
lion and more each year.
Despite the growing need for caregivers, fewer companies today allow workers to take paid time off during the workday to attend to family or personal needs
compared to five years ago, according
to a recent Society for Human Resource
Management survey. What’s more, there
appears to be little momentum among
many employers to provide leave to tend
to loved ones.
The Path Forward
Still, there have been some high-pro-file examples of trailblazers that have
pointed the way ahead. Professional services firm Deloitte made headlines last
year when it unveiled its plan, offering
employees up to 16 weeks of paid time
off per year to look after a parent or family member as well as for the birth or
adoption of a child.
And earlier this year, Facebook
launched a new policy that allows employees to take up to six weeks of paid leave to
care for a sick relative and an additional 20
days of paid bereavement leave.
AARP also introduced a program
under which its full- and part-time
employees may request up to two regularly scheduled workweeks of paid time
off per calendar year to assist a family
member who is ill or needs physical or
The program is providing welcome
relief for many workers. In just the first
eight months, approximately 20 percent