By Annemarie Schreiber, Esq.
When a woman finds out that she is pregnant, in that moment her life changes dramatically. Similarly, employees who are faced with caring for elderly relatives can have their lives change just as quickly. The key difference is that with the addition to the family, a couple has several months to prepare, but when there is a need to take care of an elder relative, it requires immediate action with little to no time to plan.
The National Alliance of Caregivers has done extensive research on the impact of emergency elder care on work place productivity. For instance, a survey conducted by this group found that workers who care for elderly relatives accounted for roughly $34 billion annually between absenteeism, replacement costs and less productivity. More specifically:
81% of employee-caregivers routinely took time during the workday to make arrangements for their relative(s).
70% took days off to care for their relative(s).
64% left early or arrived late.
41% discussed their issues with their co-workers.
Companies are starting to realize the importance of having a system in place for helping employees cope with elder care. And although this number is increasing, it is still about one in four companies offering such a benefit, including such notable companies as Prudential Financial Inc., McGraw-Hill, Freddie Mac, Verizon Wireless, and IBM.
If your company does not offer any elder care benefits, you should consider either approaching them about instituting such a program, or taking the initiative and saving up paid time off. You should also be familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. While many believe the FMLA only works for maternity and paternity leave, under certain circumstances, it also applies for the care of an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition.
If you are a business owner or an employee looking for guidance on preparing for elder care, please contact Certified Elder Law Attorney Annemarie Schreiber at 732-797-1600 or by emailing her at ASchreiber@cldds.com.