LinkedIn is introducing features to its platform that will allow family caregivers to self-identify with titles such as “stay-at-home” mom or dad. People could also label their unemployment gaps to denote when they were on parental leave, taking a sabbatical, etc.
Obviously, caregiving increased and turnover increased during the pandemic. Half of employers who said they lost employees during the pandemic identified childcare concerns as a factor in leaving the workforce. A 2020 Morning Consult survey of 1,500 unemployment insurance recipients found that 37% of caregiver respondents quit to look after a sick family member.
We have heard some of this story before. Caregiving disproportionately impacts female caregivers and their finances and careers. The same lament fuels companies to start looking at caregiver benefits, particularly around backup care and more time flexibility.
But is that enough or should we be doing this at all? In other words, are we solving the wrong problem? Increased time off does not make a family caregiver any more productive. The over-sized elephant in the room is company culture.
Many family caregivers do not self-identify for the very real fear of losing their job, being passed over for promotion, etc. Identifying yourself on LinkedIn as a caregiver is not going to change company cultures and attitudes.
I’ve spent the last few years advocating for solutions that make life easier for family caregivers, whether these were assistance programs that companies offered in EAP programs or technology solutions that made life easier.
Make no mistake, these are needed. But what message are we saying when we do this? The message to me is that family caregivers have to shoulder the burden of care for a loved one and here are some tools to help ease the burden.
We have given the health care system a free pass in all of this. The vulnerabilities of that system have glaringly been shown during the pandemic. Health systems like to talk about the great experience of care for patients and residents.
Yet they fail to recognize the family caregiver as part of the team; fail to recognize that the family caregiver has health issues of their own; and fail to realize that caregiving is a social determinant of health.
Putting a band aid on the solution, like adhering to the bare minimum standards of the CARE ACT, is not enough.
I explored this topic with Jeannette Galvanek, founder of CareWise Solutions™. She is a business consultant and speaker who writes extensively about Preserving Employment in an Aging Society. She sees the family care crisis for employers and employees through a very different lens.
The answer is not providing tools for more effective caregiving at home, offering flexible schedules or a leave of absence. As I said, giving people more time off, paid time off, or flex time does not make them a more productive caregiver.
The core issue is societal perception and culture. Caregiving is considered a family or personal problem; it is also a major workforce management issue for employers. A losing proposition for employers, employees and family. Family as the healthcare delivery channel is just not a viable business model. Dual employment is not a sustainable national workforce strategy in a competitive marketplace.
Galvanek suggests we need a new category of job creation, one that is devoted to absorbing more of the burden of caregiving, leaving family members to do what they want to do, can reasonably do, while not suffering guilt or giving up the gratification that comes with caregiving.
Have you had to quit your job to look after a sick family member or help with caring for your grandchildren during the pandemic? What was your employer’s stance? What do you think is the solution? Please share your thoughts below.