Researchers have published scary new numbers about the effects of caregiving on productivity at a large employer.

The team — led by Debra Lerner, a health and productivity specialist at Tufts Medical Center – generated the numbers while testing a Caregiver Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ).

The new survey is a version of a general, 25-question Work Limitations Questionnaire they developed in 1998.

The original questionnaire measures how chronic health problems affect a worker’s ability to work. The new questionnaire seeks to measure how caregiving affects a caregiver’s ability to work

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When the researchers tested the questionnaire by giving it to 4,128 employees at a large tire company, they found that 18 percent were current caregivers and that 10 percent had been caregivers in the past. Caregiving affected the ability to handle basic job tasks about 10 percent to 17 percent of the time, according to a paper published behind a paywall at the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis says U.S. workers get about $7 trillion per year in wages and salaries. If 10 percent of all workers are caregivers, and 10 percent of the caregivers find that caregiving affects about 10 percent of their time at work, then the new survey data suggest that caregiving might be lowering the value of about $70 billion of employers’ spending on wages and salaries.

Lerner and colleagues also looked at other, related topics, such as how likely caregiver workers were to be thinking about asking for work leave. To learn which caregivers were most likely to want to ask for leave, read on.

Woman cradling head in hands.

3. The caregivers who want paid help with caregiving but can’t get it

About 4.2 percent of all current caregivers said they were thinking about asking for leave due to the burdens of caregiving.

Workers who had trouble finding some kind of paid help, for whatever reason, were, after adjusting for all other factors considered, 61 percent more likely than other workers to be planning to ask for a leave of absence.

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Timeclock

2. The caregiver is an hourly employee

Many hourly workers have relatively low wages, and they may find that the cost of paying for professional is beyond their means, or that they value time spent with the loved ones who need care more than they value their wages.

Being an hourly employee increased the odds that a caregiver worker would be planning to ask for a leave of absence by 76 percent.

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A man

1. The caregiver is a man

Women are more likely to be caregivers than men, and the number of caregiver workers in the study sample who were planning to ask for a leave of absence was too small for the data about gender differences to be statistically significant.

But, in the study group, the men who were current caregivers were 159 percent more likely than the women who were current caregivers to be planning to ask for a leave of absence.

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