Caring for the Caregivers in Your Company

Creating a work environment that is supportive of employees who have to juggle work and caring for elderly, disabled, or terminally-ill loved ones is vital in today’s economy.

Being a caregiver and managing a full-time job is no easy task. Working mothers occupy a large part of our population and we are perhaps more aware of their predicament. But caregiving comes in many different forms and the challenges faced by these employees aren’t as commonly known.

It so happens that the responsibility of other kinds of caregiving, such as caring for elderly parents, also seems to fall on women in the workforce. In Singapore, strikingly, many of these are single women without children. “My mum is fortunate … she still has children,” said Ms Wai Ching, who is single and cares for her elderly mother suffering from dementia. “I will not be so fortunate,” she said.

Ms Ching’s dilemma underscores the bleak future faced by women like her in Singapore, as caregiving responsibilities impact their ability to continue working. A study on informal caregiving found most of them were aged 45 to 59 – the age when most people are planning for their retirement.

According to another report, most of these women reduced the number of hours they work or dropped out of the workforce entirely to care for their loved ones. In fact, 75,800 women have stopped working resulting in a 63% decline in income amounting to an annual loss of $56,877 on average, and care-related costs can amount to $1,917 a month — about a third of their monthly income after subsidies.

These government subsidies, along with a raft of other initiatives have gone a long way to alleviate the burden on caregivers. But it isn’t enough to help retain them in their jobs and ensure that they too will be taken care of in their old age.

Besides taking a financial hit, caregivers also experience stress and regular absence from work. All of this could affect their performance and productivity at work.

It does not have to be like this. You could consider strategies to support them in different ways that would enable them to deliver their best work for your organisation, while being able to attend to their caregiving responsibilities.

Be more flexible: It works for everyone

Caring for the caregivers in the workforce is the most critical human resource issue faced by companies right now. Ignoring this growing challenge can come at a cost not only for your employees but also adversely affect your company.

By not addressing the needs of the caregivers in your team, your business stands to lose hard-to-find talent as they leave the company and the workforce all together. This will affect your investment in recruiting and training these employees. You could also lose a competitive advantage as they seek to find employment in firms that meet their needs as caregivers.

One way to address this issue would be to encourage flexible working arrangements (FWA). This mode of working includes flexi-time, permanent part-time work, job sharing, compressed work weeks, and teleworking among others. As remote working becomes the norm during COVID-19, now might be a good time to introduce some of these practices to benefit your employees and company in the long run.

Your business might already offer these working arrangements. But employees are sometimes reluctant to avail of them. This is largely due to a culture that emphasises on and rewards employees being physically present in the office.

Proactively introducing a ‘care culture’ in offices, helps employees feel encouraged to voice their caregiving needs without the stigma attached to being a caregiver.

Leverage on government incentives

The Government has been at the forefront of supporting employers and employees to meet the demands of caregiving.

Of the many incentives, the Work-Life Grant (WLG) of up to $70,000 enables companies to implement flexible work arrangements to promote better work-life balance for all employees. By introducing part-time jobs, compressed work weeks, and telecommuting, your company could benefit from the grant too.

You could also raise awareness among caregivers in your company about the $200 Home Caregiving Grant that enables them to defray costs such as hiring a Foreign Domestic Worker to help take care of their loved ones.

Good people equals good business

Your company is only as good as your people. By committing to retain your caregiving employees by creating a more enabling culture, your business and your staff both stand to gain a lot more in the long term.

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