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Should You Let Your Boss Know You're a Caregiver?

Here's what you might say and what you might ask for

By John Schall

If you’re holding down a job and caring for a loved one, too, you know how hard it is to juggle your work responsibilities with caregiving.

As the CEO of the nation’s leading nonprofit family caregiver organization, Caregiver Action Network, I get asked all the time: “Should I let my employer know that I have caregiving responsibilities?”

Becoming a Catalyst for Change

Well, it shouldn’t have to be your job to educate your employer on why helping caregiving employees is beneficial to everyone. But you just might have to be the catalyst for change within your company.

It’s never too early to begin the conversation. Talk openly with your boss about your caregiving challenges. You will probably find that he or she can sympathize or knows someone in your situation. Your boss may even be caring for someone, too.

The fact is, you are not alone in being a family caregiver. Look around your office; statistically, one out of every five of your coworkers is in the same boat.

Strength in Numbers for Family Caregivers

Workers who are family caregivers are as common as workers with brown eyes. You have strength in numbers. So get together with your caregiving colleagues to create a support system at your company. Exchange ideas on caregiving and push for changes that are advantageous to you and your coworkers, as well as your employer.

But what if your employer doesn’t offer assistance to its caregiving employees? Then, begin by opening a constructive dialogue with your supervisor. Hopefully, he or she will realize that for both financial and moral reasons, caring for those who care is the right thing to do.

If words aren’t enough to convince your boss, here are some sobering numbers to help demonstrate why your employer should be supporting workers who are caring for sick spouses, partners, aging parents or children:

The Rise of Family Responsibilities Discrimination Cases


Over the last decade, the number of "family responsibilities discrimination" cases have almost tripled, resulting in nearly $500 million paid in verdicts and settlements. Workers win more than half of all cases filed and 67 percent of cases that go to trial.

Think about which type of support would most benefit you and your caregiving situation. Organizations can support caregivers in a variety of ways. Each must develop programs that fit their culture, budget and the needs of their employees. Fortunately, many companies have begun to recognize the need and are already setting examples for others to follow.

Best Practices in Caregiver Support on the Job

Best practices in corporate caregiver support include:

  • Information: For caregivers, about caregiving issues that concern them
  • Referrals and Resources: Links to organizations, agencies, and professionals that offer supportive services
  • Education: Training in general wellness and caregiver-specific issues, using various teaching methods
  • Short-term Support: Generic and caregiver-specific counseling and coaching
  • Ongoing Support: Contracted caregiving services on-site and off-site, much like employers do for child care; providing a private place to make telephone calls
  • Flexible Work Practices: Flexible work schedule; letting you adjust or make up hours; letting you telecommute and policies, practices and benefits that promote work/life balance

Treating caregiving employees with respect has many benefits, not least of which is the sense of loyalty, commitment, and appreciation it builds. And that goes a long way toward retaining valuable employees.

Helping caregiving employees benefits everyone. It just makes good business sense.

Employers need to recognize and adapt to the fact that nearly everyone will be a caregiver at some point in his or her life. It’s nearly as certain as death and taxes.

John Schall is a public policy and communications professional with expertise in health care, labor, education, economic development, taxation and budget policy. He became Chief Executive Officer of the Caregiver Action Network (formerly the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) in June 2012.  Prior to CAN, Schall was Deputy CEO of the Parkinson's Action Network and deputy of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President George H.W. Bush. Read More
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