Health & Wellness

5 Practical Ways to Support Working Caregivers

By Kandy Cantwell on July, 19 2018
7 minute read

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If you have employees who are caring for ill, elderly, or disabled family members, you know the toll it can take on them. Those balancing work and caregiving have to deal with distraction, worry, and overloaded schedules on a daily basis.

So how can you help your staff manage these challenges? How can you retain them as workers, while also supporting the rest of your team?

In this blog, we’ll discuss the unique demands that come with being a working caregiver, and what you can do to help.



What challenges do working caregivers face?  

The need to provide caregiving can be unexpected, or creep up on people.

Did you know: 1 in 4 people in Canada are caregivers? Today, more than 6 million Canadians are juggling their work and caregiving responsibilities.

Juggling these two roles can involve a lot of time, energy, and financial resources. Carers spend 12.6 million in one year on expenses related to their caregiving role.

Caregiving can also have major long-term consequences both employees and employers.

From an employee perspective, these include:

  • working fewer hours
  • rejecting new job opportunities or promotions, and
  • making less money.

For employers, that reduction in work hours can mean a decrease in productivity and revenue generation.

Luckily, you have a great opportunity to help employees adapt to the realities of caregiving. By developing proactive strategies to support the working caregivers in your office, you can create a better situation for everyone.

How can employers benefit from supporting employees who are caregivers?

An employee with caregiving responsibilities may:

  • need to be absent from work more often
  • request flexible work arrangements
  • be more distracted at work
  • feel pressured to leave the workforce due to competing demands on their time.

Paying attention to the needs of employees with caregiving responsibilities will help to:

  • Keep productivity high
  • Increase employee commitment and loyalty
  • Improve morale and relationships between staff
  • Reduce turnover rates
  • Decrease employee stress
  • Reduce unplanned employee absences from work

How can employers support employees with caregiving responsibilities?

Supporting working caregivers doesn’t need to be difficult or costly. In many cases, small changes can have a large impact.

Here are five simple ideas you can put into action now:

1. Review and build on existing benefit programs

Programs like Health Care Spending Accounts (HSAs) and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are great ways to provide the kind of comprehensive, flexible health coverage that working caregivers need.

HSAs work really well because they give employees the flexibility to use the money on whatever would benefit them the most. This can be anything from massages to counselling. Also, unlike traditional benefit plans, HSAs have fewer restrictions. This is because reimbursement generally includes all expenses recognized by Revenue Canada, up to the plan limits.

Meanwhile, EAPs can be an excellent way to help staff who are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health challenges associated with caregiving.

Through an EAP, employees can receive one-on-one counselling on specific problems they’re struggling with, as well as support on issues like:

  • researching assisted living
  • receiving Alzheimers support
  • arranging meal delivery
  • organizing transportation
  • dealing with grief

2. Offer flexible work options

By allowing staff to adapt their schedule to best suit their lifestyle, you make it easier for them to stay on top of their duties at home and at work.

Options to consider include:

  • a compressed work week
  • part-time work
  • an unpaid or paid leave of absence
  • personal days off

3. Promote employee wellness

Another way to support staff with caregiving duties is to provide employee wellness initiatives, such as:

  • lunchtime walks, yoga, or meditation classes
  • healthy eating initiatives
  • gym memberships
  • strong workplace communication

4. Revisit your workplace policies

Ensure there are clear guidelines in place to help employees during times of stress and grief, including:

  • a compassionate care benefits top-up
  • funeral or bereavement leave
  • a gradual return-to-work program

5. Effectively communicate the resources that are available

Let employees know about compassionate care benefits.

How do these benefits work?

Staff who are temporarily unable to work because they’re caring for a terminally ill family member can receive up to $547 a week in Employment Insurance (EI) for a maximum of 26 weeks.

You can also point employees to the wealth of community programs and services available to help them. These will help them make more educated decisions throughout the caregiving experience. There are also support groups to help employees feel less isolated and alone in their caregiving role. 

Make sure staff are aware of these initiatives and offer additional assistance wherever you can.


To retain any employees who are working caregivers, it’s so important to give them the support they need.

Consider offering Health Care Spending Accounts and Employee Assistance Programs so employees can better take care of themselves, and their dependents. If you can, give working caregivers flexible work options to help them manage their responsibilities better.

Also, do what you can to promote employee wellness internally, which is proven to be a great stress reliever. And revisit your workplace policies to ensure they’re supportive to employees who may need to leave work temporarily.

Finally, let employees know about external benefits and resources they can lean on.

The extra support you give can go a long way for an employee and their family. From a business perspective, you’ll be able to reduce turnover, and the rest of your team will also benefit.

Next Step:

Let us know your thoughts. What is your experience working with employees who are caregivers? What do you do to help support them? Let us know in the comments below.

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