Eldercare issues are sapping almost $1.3B in productivity

Conference Board report says employers have a role to play to help employees balance work and family obligations.

OTTAWA — Canada’s aging population is affecting more than the replacement of retiring executives and skilled workers: its sapping almost $1.3 billion in lost productivity from the economy as more employees deal with eldercare issues.

More than 25% of employed Canadians provide care and assistance to an elderly family member. A Conference Board of Canada reports says this may lead to significant pressure related to balancing work with eldercare.

Employees can experience elevated stress levels, absenteeism and work interruptions.

The Ottawa-based research firm says this is costing Canadian companies an estimated $1.28 billion per year in lost productivity.

Formal eldercare programs are not common. A previous survey of primarily medium and large employers found 37% offer eldercare leave. Thirty-two per cent indicated the leave was unpaid, while 2% offered paid leave and another 3% offered a combination of paid and unpaid leave.

The Conference Board says eldercare programs can benefit employers through retention and reduced absenteeism.

The Juggling Act: Balancing Work and Eldercare in Canada, offers broad guidelines for developing an eldercare strategy:

• Assess the extent to which eldercare obligations are already affecting employees.

• Consider measures already in place. Employee assistance programs offer helpful services to those with caregiving obligations.

• Align strategies with needs. Increased workplace flexibility may not be enough. Days off, reduced work hours or a short period of leave may be more beneficial.

• Make reasonable efforts to find accommodations that work for both parties.

• Prioritize managerial and organizational support. Support from a direct manager often determines the extent to which an employee will avail themselves of eldercare accommodations.

• Keep communication open and adjust accommodations as necessary. Eldercare obligations are unpredictable and change over time.

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