In the late 1990s, my father-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thankfully, he received treatment and returned to normal life. Then in 2014, the cancer returned with a vengeance, spreading to other organs. By fall we knew that he would need reliable assistance, so my husband resigned from his job and took the lead in making sure my father-in-law got the care he deserved. When he died in January 2015, we were all grateful knowing that he had received the best possible care at the end of his life. We were fortunate to have the ability to maintain our household on one income during the time that my father-in-law needed us the most. Our situation highlights the real challenge that employees face when they have a caregiving need. What about households that cannot afford to have one of their income earners resign?
Balance Work and Caregiving is Challenging
According to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, when it becomes difficult to balance caregiving with work, or if the demands of work come into conflict with one’s caregiving responsibilities, caregivers often choose to, or are forced to, make changes to their work situation. Six in 10 caregivers report having experienced at least 1 impact or change to their employment situation as a result of caregiving (61 percent), with about half having to go in late, leave early, or take time off to provide care (53 percent).
For far too long, many family caregivers have been forced to choose between caring for a loved one and keeping their job. This should not be. There is a new option for working family caregivers called ‘Caregiver Family Leave’ that offers up to 80% income replacement for an employee who requires an extended or intermittent leave from work to tend to urgent caregiving needs.
Compassion Society Benefits
In an interview with Dr. Kyshun Webster, Founder of the Compassion Society Benefits, he shared the specifics of the Caregiver Family Leave insurance plan.
Dr. Webster’s personal experience as a caregiver for his mother, who is 70, and for his grandmother, who is 90 years old, highlighted the urgent need for an insurance program that caters to family caregivers. As a member of Generation X, he says that he and his wife are constantly trying to optimize their work-life balance. Dr. Webster stated that “families are complex.” He also shared that there is a great amount of suffering that is being experienced by Americans. This, he says, is especially true during the current COVID-19 pandemic. He went on to say that “individuals who are working should not have to choose between caring for a loved one and making ends meet.”
The Cost of the Caregiver Family Leave Insurance Plan
The cost for the plan is only $1.40, payable on a bi-weekly basis. This qualifies a caregiver to benefit from an 80% replacement of their income. The cost was intentionally kept low so that the program could be inclusive to individuals earning an hourly wage. In socially responsible organizations, the employer may choose to sponsor the cost of the Caregiver Family Leave insurance plan, further relieving the burden of employees who are also caregivers.
In the interview, Dr. Webster also discussed the common practice of presenteeism. This is a common practice among employees where they save up their vacation time or stay at work because they are thinking about the care needs of a loved one. The issue with such a situation is that the employee is typically unproductive during this period. He suggests that employers should secure this benefit for their working caregivers, so that employed caregivers may have the option to take time away to offer care to a loved one. By doing this, employees will be able to solely focus on their duties while at their place of work.
How the Caregiver Family Leave Insurance Plan Works
The Caregiver Family Leave insurance plan is a partnership between the Compassion Society of Benefits, Inc and Nationwide . This plan is designed to complement the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is a national law that grants family leave from work for up to 12 weeks in a year. The Caregiver Family Leave insurance plan has a two-week period where employees might use their paid leave, after which this caregiver-centered insurance plan would begin to supplement 80% of the caregiver’s income for another 10 weeks. The goal is for the insurance product to become a life and health product. This groundbreaking insurance plan is currently available in 18 states.
With the tremendous growth in the aging population, there will be a continued need for family members to care for loved ones. Work-life balance is a problem that must be addressed among this particularly important group of individuals.
Looking back, having access to a plan like the Caregiver Family Leave insurance plan would have been of great benefit to my husband. He would have been able to maintain his career while offering the best possible care to my father-in-law.
AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001