When young Beatles fans first heard “When I’m 64,” the lyric, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me?” was only a cute rhyme. Now, replaying their memories of the Fab Four’s U.S. invasion 50 years ago, aging baby boomers may find the questions more relevant.
More than 40 million people had responsibility for an elder’s care in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many who are responsible for this care have day jobs to go to and must hire someone else to help their aging relative, typically a parent, with bathing, dressing, housekeeping and transportation. When these regular care-giving plans fall through, employees often must take time off from work to provide the care themselves.
Now, a growing number of employers are coming to the rescue by offering emergency backup care benefits.
Related story: Dr. Marion: There’s More than Enough Elder Care Work for All
The economic reasons for doing this are straightforward. According to a survey by care provider Bright Horizons, employees who had access to backup elder care were able to work an average of six days over a six-month period that they otherwise would have missed.
Employees are increasingly relying on backup elder care, according to Stephen Kramer, Bright Horizons’ chief development officer, “because their need is certainly increasing.”
Illustrating the point, during Hurricane Sandy, Watertown, Mass.-based Bright Horizons saw over 11,000 uses of its backup care program over a three-week period.
Jody Gastfriend, vice president of senior care services for Care.com, another company that provides backup elder care services, said employers have come to realize that the service increases employee productivity and helps them attract and retain good workers.
It’s also an “equalizer,” Gastfriend said, to offer various kinds of backup care, because companies that offer only child-care benefits are sometimes seen as unfair to employees who do not have children.
This way, “there’s more of an emphasis of benefits throughout the lifespan,” she said. “That includes self-care. Employees can use this backup care for themselves, if they are out on temporary disability and need some help at home.”
Gastfriend and Kramer both find that employers are willing to subsidize the benefit because, Kramer said, “there’s a strong ROI benefit to the employer and the cost could be prohibitive if the employee has to pay completely out of pocket.”
“Typically we’re seeing employers subsidizing up to 20 days of care a year. Employees usually pay about $6 per day, which is significantly less than what that care costs,” he said. The employers “get that back in spades – in productivity and reduced absenteeism.”