Federal Report Explore Ways to Support Caregiving Employers in the Workforce

caregiver woman with older woman

In Canada, 35% of the workforce currently provides some amount of informal caregiving and this percentage is anticipated to grow, according to the expert panelists at Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)’s Caregiver-Friendly Workplaces workshop, which CARP attended on Jan 20, 2015.

On the same day, Minister Alice Wong, Minister of State for Seniors, announced the release of the Federal Employer Panel for Caregivers’ report, When Work and Caregiving Collide – How Employers Can Support Their Employees Who Are Caregivers. Both the panel discussion and the report dug deep into the challenges of balancing work and caregiving responsibilities that many working informal caregivers struggle with, while highlighting some changes that can be made by employers and government.

“Caregiving is becoming a normative part of our experience,” said Dr. Donna Lero of the Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being, one of the panelists at HRPA’s event. However, we know that many informal caregivers face many challenges and struggle to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities, which have pushed people to leave the workforce altogether. The panel of experts made up of individuals such as, Stephen Shea of Ernst & Young LLP and Caterina Sanders of Habanero Consulting Group, both of whom are also on the Federal Employer Panel for Caregivers, discussed the need for caregiver-friendly workplaces.

The panel and the report highlighted the need for open and inclusive workplace cultures with employers that understand the needs of informal caregivers, and as a result, implement and invest in programs and policies that remove barriers, increase flexibility, and leverage technology to enable informal caregivers to meet both work and caregiving responsibilities. The panel emphasized that such changes will benefit employee caregivers but they will also improve employee performance, productivity, and retention, strengthening the organization’s competitive and financial advantage.

The Employer Panel for Caregivers is the first step in the Government of Canada’s Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan. Their report was based on consultations with employers from across Canada, representing diverse industries and large, medium, and small organizations. The report found that many employers are generally aware of the trend towards informal care but many are unaware of the magnitude. There is a need to help employers better understand the business case for supporting employee caregivers in the workplace, which will be addressed by the second step in the Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plans to analyze the cost-benefit of workplace practices and supplying business case information.

CARP has been calling on government for a comprehensive approach to support caregivers, to recognize the valuable role they play in taking care of older Canadian. CARP specifically calls for financial support, workplace protection and leaves, respite care options, funding for more home care, and integrated training and support for caregivers with the formal health system. Read CARP’s recommendations in its policy paper on Caregiver Support.