Building Better Workplaces for Family Caregivers

National Partnership for Women & Families
Building Better Workplaces for Family Caregivers

Millions of Americans who are elderly, disabled, or chronically ill rely on family caregivers, as do our nation’s children. Many of these family caregivers are struggling to manage both their caregiving responsibilities and their jobs they need to support their families. It’s time — past time — for us to adopt policies that will help caregivers hold jobs and care for their loved ones.

The majority of family caregivers work outside the home. In 2009, 66 million Americans were unpaid caregivers for family members or friends. Roughly 44 million of them were caring for someone age 50 or older.1 But in most cases, family caregivers also have to earn an income. Nearly six in ten caregivers are employed and more than seven in ten have been employed at some point while providing care.2

Caregivers often have to scale back their careers and compromise their economic security to meet family caregiving responsibilities.3 Our workplaces simply have not adapted to meet caregivers’ needs. When work and caregiving clash, caregivers and their loved ones both suffer.

Americans agree: it’s time for our workplaces to catch up to the reality of caregivers’ lives. Nearly 90 percent of Americans say that we need more flexible workplace policies to help us meet our obligations to care for family members.4 The vast majority support policies that ensure that workers don’t have to risk their jobs or lose pay because they’re caring for family members.5

Workers should be able to earn job-protected paid sick days so they can meet short-term family health needs. Crucial to caregiving is the ability to meet immediate, short-term health care needs and access preventative care. But tens of millions of workers don’t have access to job-protected paid sick days — time that they need in order to fulfill family caregiving responsibilities like taking a child to a medical appointment or coordinating a parent’s care.6 For these workers, taking time off to care for a sick family member means risking discipline, loss of pay, or even loss of a job.

A national paid sick days standard would allow workers to earn a minimum number of days per year to take care of their own health or fulfill their caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers would no longer have to choose between caring for family members and their jobs or economic security.

Caregivers need paid family and medical leave to manage family members’ serious illnesses — as well as their own. Some of the most common reasons for needing care include cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and mental or emotional illness.7 These serious conditions frequently require sustain periods of care which may cause a caregiver to need time off from work. In such cases, paid leave is vital.

Unfortunately, only ten percent of workers can take paid leave for a family member’s long-term care.8 And while the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for unpaid leave, the law covers only about half the nation’s workers.9 Millions cannot afford to take the unpaid leave the law provides. Paid family and medical leave would allow workers to take time off from work with pay in order to care for family members without risking financial ruin.

Workers and caregivers in San Francisco and Washington, DC can already take advantage of paid sick days and those in California and New Jersey get paid leave for caregiving. We’re working to make sure the rest of the country catches up …

Join us in supporting our nation’s family caregivers

American need paid sick days and strong paid family and medical leave policies. The momentum is building. Right now, campaigns for paid sick days or paid leave are underway at the federal level and in more than half the states. Join us in fighting for workplaces that value our nation’s caregivers by allowing them to provide care and provide for their families!

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Posted on BrainLine March 22, 2011.

From the National Partnership for Women & Families. Used with permission.