Lost work due to the demands of caring for aging family members costs U.S. employers $17.1 billion to $33.6 billion per year, according to a new study by MetLife Mature Market Institute, Westport, Conn.
For caregivers providing the most intense levels of care, the cost per employee in terms of lost productivity is $2,441 a year, or a total of $17.1 billion, according to the study, which MMMI did in cooperation with the National Alliance for Caregiving, Bethesda, Md.
The study defines intense care as lasting from 12 to 87 hours a week, including providing essential personal care such as bathing and feeding.
For all employee caregiving, including giving a few hours of care a week to assist with less vital activities such as shopping and meal preparation, the average cost is $2,110 per year, or $33.6 billion annually, MetLife estimates.
Since 1997, when MetLife first did the study, its estimated costs of caregiving increased nationwide by around $4 billion for both levels of care.
“Working caregivers who juggle work and caregiving responsibilities make many workplace adjustments, such as coming in late or leaving early, reducing their work schedules or dropping out of the workforce entirely,” says Sandra Timmermann, director of the MMMI, an information arm of MetLife Inc., New York.
Total estimated losses to businesses include the costs of replacing employees, absences, work interruptions and extra supervisory time.
Employees involved in caregiving often have to come in late, leave early, take time off or even quite working altogether, MMMI points out.
The study authors estimated that each year, 2.8 million men and 4.2 million women working full time are involved in caring for someone over the age of 18.
They further estimated 67,000 men and 101,000 women quit their jobs in any given year to accommodate caregiving demands.
MMMI’s Timmerman points out the finding suggest a number of opportunities for employee benefits brokers and agents.
“This would be way to introduce the idea to employers that many employees are caregivers,” Timmerman says. “It’s a hidden issue many employers don’t think about.”