Six in ten family caregivers are employed, the majority work full time. Surprisingly, 25 percent of family caregivers are Millennials.

According to Met Life, in the U.S. alone, employers incur $13.4 billion per year in added health care costs, and lost productivity is as high as $34 billion.

Employees were more likely to report fair or poor health in general and younger caregivers demonstrated significantly higher rates of cholesterol, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, kidney disease and heart disease.

Discrimination – The Elephant in the Closet

According to the Center for WorkLife Law, “Caregiver discrimination is employment discrimination against workers based on their family caregiving responsibilities. They may be rejected for hire, passed over for promotion, demoted, harassed, or terminated – despite good performance – simply because their employers make personnel decisions based on stereotypical notions of how they will or should act given their family responsibilities.”

One company that does not discriminate is Logistics Health whose CEO, Don Weber, was a guest on my Caregiver Smile Summit. What he has done to combat caregiver discrimination is a lesson on what individuals can do to help themselves.

Don’s workforce is relatively young, with an average age of 38. He recognizes that the experience of caregiving for family members and loved ones is a sacred part of the human experience.

He also knows that when employers support their staff members throughout the transition into caregiving and beyond, it strengthens their business, their communities and the families who live there.

Advocate

Caregivers can advocate, though going individually to management and advocating on your own for issues impacting family caregivers may or may not work, according to Don.

However, if you get enough of the employee base to sit down with management to explain the challenges, share stories and truly work as partners to address the issues, there is better chance of affecting change.

As Don shared, “I can’t imagine that most employers would shy from asking, ‘How can we work together on this?’ This is the best investment we have ever made.”

Take Time for Wellness

Logistics gives employees three hours of paid wellness time per week. They have had no premium increase in their health insurance plans since 2011. In fact, premiums have gone down 26% because of their investment in the overall wellness of employees.

Take care of yourself. The statistics on family caregivers pre-deceasing the person they are taking care of are staggering. My sister was one such statistic. Taking care of yourself will make you a better employee and a better caregiver and give an employer one less reason to consider letting you go.

ReACT!

ReACT (Respect A Caregiver ’s Time) is an employer-focused coalition dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by employee caregivers and reducing the impact on the companies that employ them.

ReACT represents nearly one million employees through its membership of more than 30 companies and non-profit organizations.

You could consider seeking employment at a company that is part of ReACT or simply look at their best practices and build a groundswell among your fellow employees to advocate for them.

Change the Culture

Younger employees look at their overall quality of life as a gauge to their happiness and well-being. “When they see we are investing in them personally and their families, it really helps us attract talent,” says Don. As a result, turnover is low in the organization.

In fact, they are changing the outlook of their employees on what is important. When they announced a three percent merit increase, some employees said that instead of that, they would prefer to have one more day off to spend with their families! Employees banding together can change cultures.

Surprisingly, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), there has been a steady decrease in the proportion of US employers with eldercare programs.

So, it becomes even more imperative to advocate for yourself.

Question discriminatory action. If needed, meet with your HR department. In the U.S., you can email or call the WorkLife Law hotline. Look for a similar agency in your country or contact an employment attorney.

In the U.S., you can also consider contacting a local office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a state agency that addresses equal employment opportunity issues.

How about you? Are you discriminated against in the workforce as a family caregiver? What have you experienced? Is your employer enlightened or in the dark ages? Let us know in the comments below.

Let's Have a Conversation!