How Employers Can Help the Sandwich Generation

by Toni Sorenson, CEBS, CMS

Bulletin,  HR Expertise and Support

According to Pew Research Center, nearly half (47 percent) of adults in their forties and fifties are raising a child or children while caring for one or both aging parents. In addition, one in seven is providing financial support to his or her parent(s). This group of individuals is known as the “sandwich generation.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans age 65 or older will double by 2030—to over 70 million—increasing the numbers in the sandwich generation exponentially.

Employers may see their employees needing more time off while juggling daycare for their kids with frequent doctor visits for their parents. Their increased stress levels may also affect their engagement and productivity. A recent study from Value Health on Work Productivity and Activity Impairment found that care-giving will actually reduce work productivity by 18.5 percent, which is estimated to cost U.S. employers about $30 to $50 billion per year. So what can employers do to assist this group of employees in managing these emotional and financial issues?

First, you will need to supply them with education and information. This is the first time that America will have this many workers providing care to two generations, so there is not a lot of historical data. Some suggestions are:

  • Have a brown-bag lunch or staff meeting and bring in an elder-law professional to explain the different types of powers of attorney: medical, durable, and general. They can also assist with preparing a living will, so the employee will know their parents’ wishes.
  • Provide an educational opportunity by bringing in an expert from the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. They could talk about signs, stages, diagnosis, and treatments.
  • Create a corporate library with care-giving resources like books, newsletters, and webcasts.
  • Bring in an individual who understands Medicare and how it works.
  • Provide guidance on how to start difficult but critical conversations and what questions to ask.

Second, employers can support the employees in juggling the obligations of their multi-generational families. Employers can:

  • Make sure that employees understand their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Offer flex time or a condensed workweek.
  • Allow employees to work from home or possibly a hospital or other location if needed.
  • If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you can direct the employees to this benefit. Many EAPs have resources for elder care, support groups, and individualized counseling sessions.
  • Dependent Care is often a benefit associated with children under the age of 13, but it can also be used for adult care if that is needed for the aging parent(s).
  • Offer subsidies and/or resources for emergency daycare, for both the child and the parent.
  • Bring in a financial adviser to meet with employees one-on-one to discuss financial options for the caregiver. They can also assist the caregiver in creating a financial plan for their retirement years.

Many of these options cost very little and can be extremely beneficial to the employee. Flexibility and support from employers can go a long way toward allowing employees to meet their obligations and maintain their productivity and thus could be a smart business decision.

About the author
Toni Sorenson, CEBS, CMS

Toni Sorenson joined Employers Council in summer of 2016. Her background is in employee benefits management and corporate wellness. She holds a CEBS designation, a master’s in Organizational Leadership from CSU Global, and a bachelor's degree in Accounting from Regis University.