Ottawa to seek ways to help working caregivers balance responsibilities

Alice Wong
Alice Wong

Many middle-aged workers who juggle the demands of their jobs with the care of an elderly loved one are choosing retirement over the emotional stress of being torn between their professional and private lives.

But, with the economy facing labour-market shortages and as an aging population straining the social security system, the federal Conservative government is searching for ways to keep Canadians working for as long as they want to be employed.

The Canadian Medical Association is recommending implementing a national strategy for palliative care. The CMA released a report on end-of-life care after holding town hall meetings and online discussions.

To that end, Alice Wong, the Minister of State for Seniors, will announce in Toronto on Monday a Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan that aims to find ways to accommodate workers who are caregivers during their off hours. Details of the plan were obtained by The Globe and Mail.

“There are currently 6.1 million employed Canadians who are providing to a family member or friend,” Ms. Wong will say in a news release. “Our government will work with employers through the Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan to help identify cost-effective workplace solutions to support employed caregivers, helping them to achieve a better balance of work and caring responsibilities.”

Ms. Wong is creating a seven-person panel, to be chaired by Kim Forgues, the vice-president of human resources for Home Depot of Canada. It will include representatives of companies of various sizes including Ernst and Young, Johnson & Johnson and Assumption Life Insurance.

That panel will consult with companies across Canada to identify the most successful and promising ways in which employers are helping their workers to balance the responsibilities of their jobs with caring for a loved one – usually an elderly parent but often a spouse, a sibling, a disabled child or good friend.

International experience has shown that the introduction of flexible arrangements including job sharing, teleworking and compressed work weeks can go a long way to convince workers who are also caregivers to put off retirement for a few more years.

The panel will report back to Ms. Wong, who hopes to compile the strategies into a document that would be published in the fall or winter.

Employment and Social Development Canada has been researching the problems faced by working caregivers for the past eight years and has determined that, once a full-time employee is spending more than 10 hours caring for someone outside the workplace, their interest in staying employed diminishes.

The replacement cost of that unpaid care is estimated at $24-billion a year. And the demand for the care of seniors alone is expected to nearly double by 2031. Meanwhile, many caregivers have to miss work to attend to the needs of their loved ones. The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that employers lose $1.28-billion in production annually because of caregivers who have to take time off, or quit, because of their personal duties.


Gloria Galloway

The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Jun. 23 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Jun. 23 2014, 6:30 AM EDT

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